You may well know that Malta is renowned for artistic gems like Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John (if you haven’t seen it yet, we recommend you head straight to St John’s Co-Cathedral to get in line; it is quite magnificent). But did you know there is also a dynamic contemporary art scene to be explored too?
The best news is that most of it can be found within the capital Valletta – providing the perfect trail for you to mix art with history as you wander through the streets.
Start here, in this impressive building just to the left of Castille Square. Located within the stunning Knights-built fortress of St James Cavalier, this creativity centre was transformed as Malta’s major millennium project and it is still churning out exhibition after exhibition today. Although this space feels very modern, the Knights’ influence is ever-evident in the architecture, and we love the omnipresent mix of old and new. Art lovers will be especially interested in the main gallery downstairs (don’t miss the nooks and crannies often filled with exhibits as you walk from the reception desk to the main staircase), and the upper galleries. We love the varied selection on show here and there’s almost always something new to see. This month – and until 30 June – you can check out the final thesis project by students on the local MFA in Digital Arts.
The latest addition to Valletta’s art scene is MUŻA – our new museum of art, located within the stunning Auberge d’Italie on Merchants Street. The first of its kind in Malta, it was launched as part of Valletta’s role as Capital of Culture last year and it presents a combination of gorgeous galleries to walk through. Recent MUŻA-linked events include the Chinese Kite Festival, but you can see everything from Baroque art to contemporary. As it’s so new, MUŻA is sitting surprisingly below the radar at the moment, so get in there before it becomes a local icon!
Wander out of MUŻA, cross Castille Square and wander down through pretty St Ursula’s Steps, and then to East Street. This is a lesser-visited part of Valletta, and often a little quieter. Valletta Contemporary is another relatively new kid on the block and the artsy crowd flock here for the regular openings – and no wonder. The building itself showcases what happens when old Maltese buildings are renovated with style and dedication, and the mostly-international exhibits change ever few weeks. Next up is Traces, by fantastic local photographer Stephanie Galea. This series of work depicts female bodies set within a natural landscape, and it will be open until 14 June.
Palazzo de la Salle
Continuing on your tour of artistic haunts, you’ll find Palazzo de la Salle on Republic Street – on the downward ramp towards the exit of Valletta and the sea. This is another imposing building that deserves to be seen on its architectural merit alone, but it is also so much more than that. Head upstairs to the newly-renovated galleries to see how beautifully this historic space has become a home for contemporary art. There’s lots going on, too. Until 21 June you’ll be able to see Andreana Boldarani’s first solo exhibition, RED, in which the female form is the main attraction. Then, from 28 June to 20 July, the Palazzo will present local artist Alex Dalli’s exhibition Preżenza, portraying the important existential stages of Dalli’s journey as an artist. Just in case you’re inclined to pick up a paintbrush while you’re here, this is also the seat of the Malta Society of Arts, and a number of art lessons are held here every week.
Finally, completing your tour, head back into the centre of Valletta and to Blitz – a charming townhouse that’s been lovingly transformed into a gallery by its artist-owner. Eclectic and that little bit different, Blitz attracts a young crowd thanks to its cutting edge events – including its current exhibition Face with Tears of Joy, which brings together nine international artists whose work delves into the challenge of language itself, from text to joyful images.
And for the ultimate art tour reward, nip next door to the dinky new rum bar for a toast to our capital’s creativity!