MICAS opens doors in 2024 with stellar roster of international artists

Joana Vasconcelos, celebrated Portuguese conceptual artist whose grand sculptures enthral millions, hosted by Malta Contemporary in 2024

Milton Avery (left), and Joana Vasconcelos
Milton Avery (left), and Joana Vasconcelos

A stellar roster of visionary artists is poised to redefine Malta’s cultural landscape this year: with

The Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS) is preparing for its grand debut with an inaugural line-up of artists that will thrust Malta on the global art map, with the Portuguese conceptual artist Joana Vasconcelos one of the highlights of Malta’s first-ever contemporary art museum.

MICAS opens its doors in October 2024, where the public will enjoy the restored 17th century Ospizio fortress, expansive indoor gallery spaces, outdoor sculpture gardens and a café.

Joana Vasconcelos, Valkyrie Miss Dior, 2023, Dior Autumn/Winter 2023/2024 Women Collection
Joana Vasconcelos, Valkyrie Miss Dior, 2023, Dior Autumn/Winter 2023/2024 Women Collection

Its programme of five diverse exhibitions will stretch into 2026, including African-American artist Reggie Burrows Hodges as well as a Milton Avery survey.

Artistic director Edith Devaney said the carefully developed selection process was designed to present exhibitions of the highest quality. “It develops original ideas and honours diversity, and develops relationships with global artists and museums,” Devaney, who until recently was senior curator at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, said.

With Vasconcelos – recently commissioned to outfit the stage for Christian Dior’s 2023- 2024 Paris Fashion Week show – Malta Contemporary’s opening exhibition will be colourful and exuberant, with wide resonance and relevance to the museum’s visitors, both local and international.

Joana Vasconcelos, Árvore da Vida [Tree of Life], 2023, Sainte-Chapelle, Château de Vincennes, Paris, France
Joana Vasconcelos, Árvore da Vida [Tree of Life], 2023, Sainte-Chapelle, Château de Vincennes, Paris, France

“A core selection of installations that focus on the domestic will be presented alongside three major works that connect with the contemplative side of human existence – Tree of LifeThe Garden of Eden and Valkyrie Mumbet,” Devaney said.

Vasconcelos will form a deep engagement with Malta for her exhibition, which also celebrates MICAS’s contemporary architecture. Her work will be presented in the ‘raw’ building, before the internal museum structure is installed, revealing the natural beauty of the excavated and historic walls of the Ospizio washed in the natural light that flows throughout.

“A Joana Vasconcelos exhibition presents the perfect opening exhibition for MICAS as it invites visitors to step into her magical vision and in doing so, explore the museum and its campus,” Devaney said, adding that all international artists working with Malta Contemporary are challenged to leverage Malta and its culture to inform their approach to the selection and placement of work in the galleries.

Render of the main MICAS galleries, opening in October 2024 (C) Ipostudio
Render of the main MICAS galleries, opening in October 2024 (C) Ipostudio

In November 2024, MICAS will also celebrate a major, newly commissioned sculpture by the celebrated Maltese artist Ray Pitre, which will be permanently and prominently positioned within the campus as part of MICAS’s permanent collection.  “We are proud that our programme establishes an identity for this contemporary museum in a crowded global art scene while reaffirming our artistic independence,” said Phyllis Muscat, CEO and Chair of the MICAS board. “This sets MICAS apart from other government-funded cultural organisations and aligns us with international not-for-profit museums.”

Future exhibitions

Future exhibitions will feature works from master colourist Milton Avery – who influenced artists like Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko – and Reggie Burrows Hodges with a new exhibition of work, much of which has been created for Malta Contemporary.

A core body of paintings from the hugely respected American artist Milton Avery will also mark a first for Malta in 2025: rarely has Avery’s work been seen in Europe. With, amongst others, Harold Ancart, March Avery, Gary Hume and Nicolas Party, the exhibition will be a captivating study of how contemporary art remains rooted in Modernism, revealing these artists’ debt to Avery’s compositions and unique approach to colour.

In 2026, African-American artist Reggie Burrows Hodges will bring a visual narrative that explores questions of identity, community and memory. “A pillar of the programme will be to showcase the work of global artists who have earned recognition from their singular approach to creating art,” Devaney says.

Maltese contemporary art

In 2025, “Malta In Focus” will host Malta’s leading contemporary artists, illustrating the richness of contemporary Maltese practice from Caesar Attard, Austin Camilleri, Joyce Camilleri and Anton Grech, and more. “This marks Malta’s Contemporary’s commitment to celebrate Maltese art at its highest form and bringing it to a wider international stage,” Devaney says.

“Malta in Focus” will be a curated exhibition occupying all the gallery spaces and will feature the work of leading Malta-based contemporary artists. Selected and installed around the concept of imagined space, the exhibition will include artists from several different generations, working across differing media and it will illustrate the depth and richness of contemporary art practice in Malta. It will also mark the beginning of regular exhibitions within the programme that explore and showcase Malta-based art within a global context.