2024: A Fusion of Heritage and Contemporary Art Set to Redefine Malta's Cultural Landscape |
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The first edition of, which will be held in the coming year, is set to be the cultural event of 2024. With 80 artists hailing from 23 nations, 24 of whom are Maltese, including 2 from the Maltese diaspora, as well as over 20 national and thematic pavilions spread throughout Malta and Gozo in 21 historic sites, 17 of which are under Heritage Malta's care, this international contemporary art festival offers Malta as the centre of artistic creativity between March and May for locals and visitors alike.

 This was announced by the Minister for Local Heritage, the Arts, and Local Government, Dr Owen Bonnici, during a conference where the first details on 2024 were shared. The biennale, the first of its kind for Malta, is a Heritage Malta initiative, with Arts Council Malta as its main partner, as well as the Malta Tourism Authority, Malta Libraries, the Valletta Cultural Agency, MCAST, Festivals Malta, and Spazju Kreattiv, supported by the Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Gozo, through the Culture Directorate. This first Maltese biennale will also feature a public program which will include participants such as Naples' L'Orientale and Milan's IULM Universities, Florence's Academy of Arts, New York's Image Threads, two other biennales – Larnaca's and Mulhouse's Biennale de la photographie, as well as UNESCO's International Centre for the Interpretation and Presentation of World Heritage Sites. Malta's own Heritage Malta, MCAST, Magna Żmien, ŻfinMalta, KorMalta, Manoel Theatre, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, the Valletta Cultural Agency, and Festivals Malta will also be participating.

This biennale stands out from other similar events in that it weds national heritage with contemporary art, a challenge but also an incredible source of inspiration for participating artists, including notable names such as Cuba's Tania Bruguera, Mexico's Andrea Ferrero, Austria's Barbra Kapusta, South Korea's Dew Kim, Angola's Edson Chagas, the USA's Amy Bravo, Swtizerland's Anna Anderegg, and Italy's Post Disaster Collective and Agnes Questionmark, among others. Maltese artists Austin Camilleri, Norbert Attard, Trevor Borg, Romeo Roxman Gatt, and Martina Farrugia will also be among the artists featuring in "It is this unique merging of the historical and contemporary which attracted UNESCO's patronage, together with His Excellency the President of Malta, Dr George Vella's own patronage, to the biennale, which will truly be equal parts a national and international event.

National, as it brought entities from the cultural sector together to truly create the best inaugural edition of the biennale, upon which future editions will build," Minister Bonnici said in his closing remarks at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Mario Cutajar, Heritage Malta Chairman and President, explained the themes which make up this first biennale in Malta. "Firstly, there is an overarching theme for this biennale and future editions thereof, which is the Mediterranean: white sea olive groves reflect on the region's constant search for peace. Our current times make this theme even more urgent," explained Cutajar.

Delving into the three main goals of this international art festival, Cutajar spoke on the dialogue between past and present, history and contemporary art, and the interpretation of the past to understand the present and examine the future better, highlighting the importance of a biennale that is led by Heritage Malta. Through this biennale, the nation is recounting its history, which,

throughout centuries, has hosted several artists. Caravaggio, Preti, Favray, Laparelli, Ġlormu Cassar were contemporaries for their age as much as Pasmore, Barry, Piano. Our nation in the midst of this white sea has hosted different cultures, and this remains to this day. "Malta is the only adequate place where the Mediterranean can find and interpret itself," held Cutajar. Cutajar also explained that the biennale would serve to enhance dialogue between Maltese art and that which lies beyond its shores, strengthening an already thriving sector and diversifying it.

The event will also certainly place Malta on the international cultural calendar, an aspiration which one could say has already been reached, when considering that the biennale has already attracted over 2,500 artistic proposals from over 100 nations. "Certainly, this has made the curatorial team's selection process quite challenging and has raised the bar for the artistic level which our country should reach," said Cutajar. Artistic Director Sofia Baldi Pighi, an Italian based in Milan with curatorial experience in contemporary art, is leading the curatorial team, consisting of Elisa Carollo, an Italian based in New York, and Maltese Emma Mattei and Nigel Baldacchino, the biennale's set designer.

Baldi Pighi intervened to reveal the four artistic themes for the biennale: the Matri-archive, exploring women in the region; post-colonialism, an everrelevant theme for the Mediterranean region; the Mediterranean itself; and Piracy and its present meaning.

 Each theme will be grouped in a number of sites which will be hosting Maltese aspects relevant to each theme. Baldi Pighi expressed her satisfaction at her ability to contribute to a biennale in a


nation so rich in history, which history undoubtedly served to attract considerable attraction to the event, not just from contemporary artists who will be at the heart of the biennale, but also individuals who have already expressed their intention to visit the islands between March and May. The Artistic Director also referred to the public program which will be including international cultural institutions, and which will be aimed at audiences of all ages, and will include workshops, discussions, and conferences spread throughout the biennale period. Arts Council Malta's Chairman, Albert Marshall, explained that the Council's decision to partner with Heritage Malta for was easily made, given that the biennale is an artistic event with goals that align with the Council's. Marshall said that the biennale will go beyond the contemporary art crowds and will seek to attract locals and foreigners alike to understand contemporary art, which may at times feel strange, or shocking.

The public program, Marshall stated, will be for everyone, and will include cultural events beyond the contemporary, but remain faithful to the biennale's themes. During the conference memoranda of understanding were also signed by six cultural entities: ŻfinMalta, Manoel Theatre, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, KorMalta, the Valletta Cultural Agency, and Festivals Malta.

Under the coordination of Arts Council Malta, these entities will be organising cultural events throughout the biennale, which will be complementing the main cultural and educational public program, which will be integral to is a Heritage Malta initiative through MUŻA, the Malta National Community Art Museum, in partnership with Arts Council Malta under the Patronage of H.E. the President of Malta and UNESCO. The biennale is also presented in cooperation with the Ministries for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, and Gozo, as well as with Visit Malta, Malta Libraries, MCAST, Festivals Malta and the Valletta Cultural Agency. is online:



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