Friday, July 12, 2024

Exploring the inaugural Malta Biennale caught up with with Mario Cutajar, President of and Chairman Heritage Malta, to delve into the vision and significance of the country’s inaugural Biennale, that promises to bring a unique blend of contemporary art, historical richness, and cultural exchange.

Goals and Aspirations for Malta Biennale: is Malta’s first national contemporary art biennale, set to elevate the local arts and culture scene. It aims to be the region’s cultural highlight, granted UNESCO’s patronage. Our mission is to provide ample space for both emerging and renowned artists, showcasing Malta’s rich history at UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Ġgantija and Valletta.

Together with Heritage Malta, visitors will experience a biennale set in one of the world’s most ancient and prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the megalithic temples of Ġgantija and the island’s capital, the iconic Valletta. Our rational is simple – much like these sites acted as forums for the greatest minds of their time, they now serve as modern cultural hubs, fostering the free expression, sharing, and development of ideas.”

Relevance for Tourists from the UAE and the Middle East:

“The biennale offers UAE visitors a unique opportunity to explore Malta’s rich history, bridging the cultural gap and presenting a season of festivities on the island. We also celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations with the Emirates this year. We will collaborate with the Louvre Abu Dhabi, to exhibit its Phoenician Cippi in Abu Dhabi, through the coming months until March 2024.

(The cippi (plural of cippus) of Malta are a pair of ornamental pillars with engravings dedicated to the god Melqart, the most important Phoenician god.)

The biennale for UAE visitors will also be a unique opportunity to explore and immerse oneself in a rich history that has roots, not too distant from the Middle Eastern region. It will, of course, also be a season of festivities on the island, where traditional feasts meet contemporary celebrations through

As the inaugural event, all markets for Malta Biennale are new. We focus on exploring potential in the Middle Eastern region, aiming to strengthen relations and appeal to a diverse audience.”

Expectations for Malta Art Biennale:

“The inaugural, themed ‘baħar abjad imsaġar taż-żebbuġ’ (white sea olive groves), aims to fuse Malta’s historical heritage with the contemporary. Set against UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it challenges audiences to disrupt island narratives and envision new futures for the Mediterranean. The event, running from March to May 2024, promises diverse programs, events, and collaborations.

Malta has always been at the intersection of peoples and cultures and this biennale will be a living embodiment of that sense of movement and growth. We will also make sure that the biennale, ongoing throughout springtime between March and May 2024, is open to all audiences, through a diversity of programmes, events, and collaborations.”

Participating Countries and Special Programs/Events:

“With the curatorial selection ongoing, approximately 2,500 high-caliber proposals from 75 countries have been received. The final list of participants, including prominent names in the industry, will be announced soon, creating anticipation for the diversity and excellence the biennale will showcase. aims to act as a bridge between contemporary art and the public. The public program includes Art Education and Museum Strategy, fostering inclusivity. Amid Malta’s spring season, workshops, gatherings, and interactive performances will enhance the overall experience.”

Engagement with the Local Community:

“Spreading the biennale across the islands is a deliberate choice to enhance cultural participation within Malta’s communities.  When always knew we wanted to enhance cultural participation in a meaningful, organic manner within Malta’s communities. The public program aims to bridge the gap between contemporary art and non-sector audiences, fostering a meaningful connection with sociocultural needs.

Parallelly, we have also partnered with the Malta Tourism Authority to ensure that is at the forefront of every tourist’s mind when they land in Malta between March and May 2024. This is our flagship project, and we are thrilled to share it with the world.”

Plans for Tourism Packages:

“Collaborations with agents/operators are in progress to offer special packages, encouraging tourists to extend their stay during the biennale. Efforts will ensure a unique, immersive, and effortless experience for visitors.”

Sustainability Initiatives: embraces responsible tourism, collaborating with the Malta Tourism Authority to handle visitor flow sustainably. Various initiatives include promoting good environmental practices, public transportation use, and proper waste disposal, respecting the delicate context of UNESCO World Heritage Sites hosting the biennale.

We will also be encouraging visitors to adopt good environmental practices, including among others, the use of public transportation, and proper disposal of waste throughout their stay.”

The Malta Biennale emerges not only as a celebration of contemporary art but also as a platform for cultural exchange, historical reflection, and a bridge connecting Malta to the world. Under the leadership of Cutajar, this inaugural event promises a unique and immersive experience, inviting art enthusiasts and tourists alike to explore the intersection of tradition and modernity in the heart of the Mediterranean.

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