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.