Fine Arts Museum move to attract ‘less typical’ visitors

Curator Alexander Debono spoke out about the move of the National Museum of Fine Arts from Admirality House in South Street, Valletta to the nearby Auberge d’Italie in Merchant’s Street.

Photo of a recent event organised at the National Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is currently in the process of moving from Admirality House in South Street, Valletta to nearby Auberge d’Italie.
Photo of a recent event organised at the National Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is currently in the process of moving from Admirality House in South Street, Valletta to nearby Auberge d’Italie.

Stopping short of mentioning a deadline for the project or commenting on any specific details related to the move, Debono said that the move will aim to attract "less typical" visitors to the museum - which will now feature a substantial contemporary art collection.

"The move is currently at a preliminary stage. Data for MEPA application permits is being collated, briefs are being drafted and the permanent display being re-thought," Debono told MaltaToday.

He added that the decision to move venue - which was officially announced during the last Budget speech - came about for a number of reasons.

"The new seat means a significant increase to its current permanent display area; I would say almost threefold. The quality and type of services it can offer from this new seat, and the much more felt presence at the centre of the city as one of the major exponents of Malta's artistic identity are all positive gains," Debono said, adding that Malta shouldn't be tame in its ambitions regarding its national museum: "With a significant upgrade in both display and services, the museum will be a far more effective tool to reach out to less typical audiences. We should not be anything else than a European national museum.

Significantly, Auberge d'Italie was also the first seat for Malta's National Museum between 1925 and 1954.

"The move will mean a 'return back home' to where the national museum was conceived. Auberge d'Italie has great significance for Malta's cultural heritage sector," Debono said.

The promise of an expanded contemporary art space is one of the more pressing issues related to the move.

Recently, artists and art lovers have mobilised to express their - often differing - opinions on a suggestion made by architect Chris Briffa that the Covered Market in Valletta be converted into an art museum. While not everyone agreed with transforming the venue as proposed during Facebook discussions, the need for a contemporary art museum was unanimous.

"Asking whether or not we need a contemporary art museum is a most pointless question. It's like asking: do we need art or artists, do we need newspapers or universities?" Gozo-based installation artist Norbert Francis Attard said.

 

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