This is an outstanding year for culture.
With Valletta 2018 – our Capital City being the European Capital for Culture – we have enjoyed, participated in and applauded hundreds of cultural activities purposely organised for this magnificent feast of tradition, artistry and culture. We are still to enjoy others until Valletta passes its cultural reign to Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Italy’s Matera.
I am proud that we have achieved what this European feast is all about: we highlighted the richness and diversity of our culture; we celebrated our cultural features; we increased the sense of belonging to a common cultural area and fostered the contribution of culture to the development of our Capital City – and beyond.
However, more than that, we also regenerated Valletta and, yes, breathed new life into our Valletta’s culture.
I will not abstain from repeating that we have given Valletta a new lease of life. Without doubt, and as a resident in our Capital City, I can see a huge difference comparing Valletta of today and Valletta of some years back. Valletta is nowadays thriving with people enjoying themselves day and night in cultural but also recreational spheres.
We have invested in restoring palaces, important buildings, churches and more, helping to raise the international profile of our Capital, and helping to boost tourism, welcoming our visitors to a revived City of Culture.
With sheer pride, I can say that tomorrow we will see another addition to our cultural haven that Valetta is.
MUŻA - the chosen name for Malta’s new museum of art and flagship project for Valletta’s European Capital City of Culture title. A project that is a national-community art museum, the first of its kind, in a historic site within the Capital City of Valletta.
Housed in the newly restored Auberge d’Italie, the museum will give visitors at MUŻA an opportunity to experience various audio-visual experiences that will aid them to understand and perhaps even discover the muse of the artist as they worked on their particular art piece. This is part and parcel of the museum’s main mission – that of making art accessible and understandable to everyone.
And part and parcel of what we believe in and have also made as one of our missions for this sector, accessibility to art and culture for all.
The former home to the National
Valletta is nowadays thriving with people enjoying themselves day and night in cultural but also recreational spheres
Art collection was not adequate and left much to desire. Whole periods of art were not displayed for lack of space and were not accessible, hidden away, but cared for, in lockers and other spaces.
Discussions led to the decision that our art collection deserved better and needed a bigger exhibition space. Auberge d’Italie was the choice.
Restoring this new home was not an easy task. It was built at various stages in the late 16th century to house the Knights of the Order of St John from the langue of Italy, and it originally had a Mannerist design by Girolamo Cassar and several other architects. The building continued to be modified throughout the course of the 17th century, with the last major renovation being carried out in the 1680s during the magistracy of Gregorio Carafa, giving the building a Baroque character.
After the Order was expelled from Malta in 1798, the Auberge was used for a number of purposes, housing a military headquarters, an officers’ mess, a museum, a school of arts, a courthouse, the General Post Office and various government departments. Until recently, it housed the Malta Tourism Authority.
Visiting the various stages of restoration, I discovered, along with the able restorers, exciting finds practically in all corners of the building. Long hidden architectural gems started coming to light – all adding to the richness of the building. I shared the joy of the restorers and curators when a find gave particular interest serving as another link to the written history of the building.
This museum had our attention from the very beginning.
What has been so far a National dream has now become MUŻA.
MUŻA is not just another art museum. Much research has gone not only into how exhibits will be displayed, but also into the choice of the colour palette, material used, and the branding of the whole project. A visit to this art museum will not only be an unforgettable experience for the visitor, but one that will seduce the visitor to explore more.
I will tempt you with one example. A highlight will be the re-creation of the monument “the unknown soldier” by Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino. This will be the first time ever that one may appreciate the scale and ambition of this project, which has so far only existed on paper and as a plaster model. Other AVs will range from an exploration of the artist at work to interactive experiences, which would allow visitors to be critical, ask questions and perhaps even elicit their muse and creativity to create something over their own.
This is the artist’s cultural temple as much as it will be the art aficionado’s paradise. In fact, over the past year we have been collaborating with various professional artists to create over 21 audio-visual experiences.
Nothing has been spared in the making of MUŻA. Take the colour range chosen – it complements the colour of local stone and its complementary Mediterranean environment. Materials used for the interpretation panels complement the newly reinstated floor in local hardstone. A contemporary material in use for the first time in Malta complements the earth colour palette for MUŻA.
Weathered bronze doorways in Sicily were a source of inspiration for the colour of the windows and apertures on Merchants street. A similar colour also featured on doorways and apertures in nineteenth-century Valletta and very many paintings and watercolours were consulted and examined for this purpose. The green coloured aperture complement the dark green coloured bust of Grandmaster Gregorio Carafa and the grey-white marble escutcheon on the main façade.
MUŻA has also caught the attention of the international community. Presentations made in Rome, Naples, Salerno, Cambridge, Leicester and other cities were applauded – giving the art museum a strong base to be a key player in the international art scene.
With MUŻA we usher in a
Nothing has been spared in the making of MU|A - Malta’s new museum of art and flagship project for Valletta’s European Capital City of Culture title
new era in the eventful history of museums in Malta. This national-community art museum, as the project has been acknowledged far and wide, places the public at the very centre of the museum experience. It is the very same public which becomes the true inhabitant of the museum institution where he feels at home to engage with his past to shape his future.
With MUŻA we usher Malta’s second-generation museum institution that is European at heart in the ways and means it acknowledges the roots of a historic past and projects them into the future. It is also a contemporary centre of learning where the public seeks inspiration that is uniquely branded with the Maltese word MUŻA.
This is our contribution to the European legacy of our momentous European Capital of Culture title. We look forward to a bright future for MUŻA as it continues to live up to its aspirations and ambitions of being at the forefront of innovation, spearhead internationalisation through high quality programming and give back to the community that dose of inspiration which is MUŻA.
I augur that all those who have our art at heart, jot down in their personal calendar a visit to MUŻA, which is definitely a must visit in the weeks to come.
The project is partially funded by the EU, as part of the European Regional Development Fund and the European Structural and Investment Fund 20142020.
The Malta Independent | Friday 9 November 2018