23 September 2014

Government reverses move of Museum of Fine Arts to Auberge d’Italie

 - Sunday, 10 November 2013, 09:40

by Noel Grima

Plans that were already being put in action to transfer Valletta’s National Museum of Fine Arts from its present site in South Street to the Auberge d’Italie on Merchants Street have been stopped and reversed.

An official spokesman told The Malta Independent on Sunday: “The process for the transfer of the Museum of Fine Arts to Auberge d’Italie has been halted, as the Museum of Fine Arts was not large enough to accommodate the Tourism Ministry and the Malta Tourism Authority.”

The plans, set in place by the previous administration, intended to provide the museum with far more space in which to exhibit masterpieces of Maltese art, most of which at present have to be stored in the museum’s warehouses as there is no room for them in what used to be Admiralty House in South Street.

It would have also meant a return by the museum to the auberge it once occupied in the past.

Questions sent to the Culture and Local Councils Parliamentary Secretariat remained unanswered at the time of going to print.

The spokesman also added that “At no time were any fine art collections transferred to Auberge d’Italie”.

This is true but also a lot of work that has been done so far has now been rendered useless. According to sources, the transfer of offices from South Street to Merchants Street had already begun.

The auberge, with its opening on to Pjazza la Vallette – the old portal of the auberge – is now being re-opened after the demolition of the police station, but it will become just another ministry instead of the focal point of Malta’s artistic heritage.

It is, on the other hand, it is very understandable that the Tourism Minister and his staff, and the MTA, were very reluctant to move to Admiralty House because – as any visitor can see – the building requires a vast amount of restoration work. In fact, one of the reasons behind the concept of moving the museum to the significantly larger and already restored Auberge d’Italie was the poor condition of the rooms at Admiralty House.

The museum in South Street had been given the building next door, but this also requires a considerable amount of restoration.

The spokesperson added, “It was decided, however, that an upgrade would still be given to the Museum of Fine Arts.”

Considering that this has not been done over many, many years, one cannot help but be somewhat sceptical about this promised upgrade. And Valletta’s designation as City of Culture in 2018 could also have been seen as an opportunity to give Malta a Museum of Fine Arts and possibly a Museum of Contemporary Art as well.


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p m says:
11 November 2013 10:59

Not exactly connected with this item. But, whatever happened by this "dynamic" government about the offer of paintings by the Polish gentleman which was in the news about 8/9 months ago? Something born out of it?

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Joe Martinelli says:
10 November 2013 14:47

Another shameful U-turn!

Plans were going ahead to transfer the museum to the Auberge d'Italie and the government's architects did not discover until now, that the present location was too small for the Tourism Ministry and Tourism Authority?
U zgur, ghax insew kemm kibru l-ministerji w l-istaff taghhom bil-bazuzli ta Gowzef!
Ara veru li l-id il-lemenija ma tafx x'qed taghmel ix-xellugija! U allura? La ghandna flejjes kbar gejjin mil-bejgh ta passaporti, bill-niehdu zball hawn u zball l'il hemm, ma jkun gara xejn, ta. Ghax kif kien jghid il-kbir Sant, "inbazwru ftit l-hawn u nbazwru ftit l-hemm".... Principju tipiku Laburist!
Kabocci, pastard u basal.

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Charles Theuma says:
10 November 2013 13:24

Maybe one may consider moving the Malta Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, both key for the well being of Malta's economy to Auberge de Baviere which the Lands and Housing Authority have rendered in such a despicable state.  The housing and lands department can be easily housed in any part of Malta, including in Saint Elmo, instead of the Police Academy which is moving/has moved.  The fine arts museum deserves a prime site in Valletta.  The current admiralty house should be converted into a National Portrait Museum bringing in the many portraits which grace diverse office walls into one location, thus opening to the Maltese another aspect of history.

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Evarist Saliba says:
10 November 2013 13:02

Kenneth Zammit Tabone may have an opinion on this.

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A Vella says:
10 November 2013 12:39

Kenneth, you there?

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Geoffrey Borg says:
10 November 2013 12:21

What else does one expect from a government whose head considers a burger to be the epitome of haute cuisine. No one should be surprised.

Be careful what you wish for, it might not turn out to have been what you really wanted.....

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Richard Caruana says:
10 November 2013 10:20


There is no other reaction any art lover should have in respect of this decision.

As an artist myself, I sincerely hope that other artists join in this protest.

There is absolutely now space at the present museum in South Street for the collection of modern art collected over past decades (and mostly donated by artists themselves) that will remain in store when it could have been enjoyed by the public and tourists.

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