Artist Patrick Dalli takes swipe at One News for ignoring official Muscat portrait

Muscat portraitist Patrick Dalli expected Labour newsroom to cover his work after the portrait was given an unofficial airing when journalists visited the Cabinet office for a Libyan delegation visit

Artist Patrick Dalli has saluted Joseph Muscat as “the father of modern Malta”
Artist Patrick Dalli has saluted Joseph Muscat as “the father of modern Malta”

The artist Patrick Dalli has take a swipe at Labour’s One TV newsroom for failing to report the first images of his portrait of former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

There was no official announcement from the Department of Information for the portrait of the former Labour PM, who resigned in disgrace in 2019 after the arrest of Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, accused of mastermining the Caruana Galizia assassination, and that of his former chief of staff Keith Schembri, a business partner of Fenech’s.

Journalists on Friday visiting the Cabinet room for a meeting between Prime Minister Robert Abela and his Libyan counterpart Abdulhamid Dbiebah were able to catch a glimpse. Hours later, the artist published images of the oil on canvas on his Facebook page describing Muscat as ‘the father of modern Malta’.

“For One’s newsroom, the hanging of the portrait of former Labour PM Joseph Muscat in Castille seems to have no news value. Not for his predecessors however. You should be ashamed of yourselves,” Dalli said on his Facebook wall.

The picture of the painting by artist Patrick Dalli was never released by the Office of the Prime Minister. When a portrait was installed of Muscat's predeccesor, Lawrence Gonzi, a press release was issued along with an image of the former prime minister taking a first look.

The outspoken Dalli has in the past taken exception at political criticism of his work: he took exception at Nationalist MP Therese Comodini Cachia’s misgivings on the price paid by the State by some of his work, by showing her his umbrage in a personal text message.

Comodini Cachia was addressing the House in a debate on a budgetary estimates bill dealing with the ministry for culture, when she made reference to the €15,000 direct purchase of a nude by Dalli. He was then husband of the then-minister for equality and EU affairs Helena Dalli, who is today European Commissioner.

“I expect that a painting purchased with the public’s money be justified by the minister, and that he tells us why this artist was favoured over others, and how that value was established,” Comodini Cachia said.

The oil painting – a nude portrait of a blond woman measuring 133cm by one metre – was acquired for €15,000 to hang in the prime minister’s official summer residence in Girgenti.

“Honourable Comodini Cachia…” Dalli said in a text he sent the MP at 8:56pm after Monday’s parliamentary sitting had finished, “for your partisan information, which you requested of my work in parliament, the price of my art is established by myself and nobody has the right to value my work.”

Commodini Cachia posted the screenshot of the text message on her Facebook wall, saying Dalli was “deciding for himself how much the government should spend on his art”.