Malta’s Museum of Fine Arts has recently undergone a relocation and renovation project which has been followed with much anticipation among the art community in Malta and beyond its shores. A multi-million project, part financed by the European Union saw the 20,000-piece strong collection moved from its old site in South Street in Valletta, to the Auberge d’Italie, formerly home to the Order of Italy of the Knights of St John, and subsequently used as post office and Ministry for Tourism in more recent years. The project in itself was a flagship project for the Valletta European Capital of Culture title in 2018 which certainly added to the prestige of Malta’s capital which already boasts the title of UNESCO World Heritage City.
“The word MUŻA stands for the project’s vision. The word is an acronym which stands for MUŻew Nazzjonali tal-Arti which is the Maltese name of the current National Museum of Fine Arts. It also refers to the muses; the mythological figures from classical antiquity inspiring creativity and, in effect, the etymological source of the word museum. MUŻA is also the Maltese word for inspiration.”
I had personally been edging to visit the renewed Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta – and Boxing Day proved a perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and visit the museum with Dad, just like I used to do as a kid. I must say I was pleasantly taken by the way the works were curated and grouped together … a collection of portraits by prominent Maltese artists in different styles and media welcomes you at the entrance … just like the different faces of Maltese society welcome you as you walk into Valletta. As you move along the different rooms and halls, you come across a collection of works by a cross section of artists who were born in Malta or were linked to Malta across the centuries. My personal favourite would certainly be the Antonio Sciortino space where a plethora of his works can be found, showcasing his aptitude in different sculptural styles. There's also the interactive ‘live drawing class’ room set up which is really interesting and fun for all ages.
As the museum has only been open a few weeks, admittedly, the sense of ongoing development and finishing can still be felt to some extent. I look forward to more spaces where kids’ workshops can be held – I love seeing kids drawing on communal tables and listening to kid-friendly explanations of the different artworks when visiting museums abroad. I also hope to see thematic exhibitions organized with the huge treasure trove of works which make up the museum’s collection … It’s 100 years from Esprit Barthet’s birth next year, so, you’re welcome! It’s this kind of activities which can keep the space alive and turn it into a true “national community art museum”.