The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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Government failed to consult with artists on Malta Biennale, PN says

Saturday, 13 April 2024, 09:54 Last update: about 2 months ago

PN MP Julie Zahra said Saturday that government failed to consult with artists on the Malta Biennale 2024.

In a statement, Zahra said that disappointment was shown in the organisation of the Malta Biennale across the board, with the Nationalist Party noting many shortcomings.

“This event had an allocation of €1.7 million, and as in other situations, the Labour Government failed to consult, in this case with the artists, and failed to provide information, communicate, and be transparent,” Zahra said.

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She said that there was also a lack of logistical planning and a lack of vision.

The PN said that this was also stated by the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) this week, where it showed its dissatisfaction with how things went, even with its own members.

The PN said that it is in favour of all artists, especially Maltese and Gozitans, having the opportunity to showcase their work as it is beneficial to them, while also showcasing the country's talent.

“It is also good to have events like these, with the aim of fostering cultural appreciation among our people. But it is unacceptable for this to be done with such a large and uncontrolled expenditure, as funds could be better used to support artists and others in the sector,” Zahra said.

The PN said it was also clear that the aim of the biennale was primarily to attract tourists, and not Maltese families.

“This was also evident in the price of tickets for five days, which exceeded that of the Venice Biennale - one of the best. This led to a lack of public interest,” Zahra said.

The PN also noted the harsh criticism of the Malta Biennale in an article that appeared in 'The Spectator' magazine, which among other things, the article stated that; “In Malta, I got the sense that the organisers had visited the last couple of big biennale art exhibitions and used them as a template for how theirs should look.”

The critic continued that the Malta Biennale did not speak volumes for ‘their’ wisdom, Digby Warde-Adam said.

“Criticism like this does not bode well for our country and only damages our reputation with other countries, also potentially discouraging artists who may have been interested in showcasing their work here,” Zahra said.

She said that one begins to wonder if the purpose behind the biennale was really to help the country's reputation and that of Valletta, which so far holds the title of World Heritage Site, or if it was just a vanity project of some individuals.

“The lack of planning, organization, communication, and transparency continue to undermine our country. The aim was not to promote culture, as there were hardly any offers and incentives for schools to visit these exhibitions,” she said.

The PN said that the people expect government to properly evaluate the 'success' of this biennale, while also asking for reactions from the artists who participated or are participating, compiling statistics and essential information so that it can be used if another Malta Biennale is organized in the coming years.

“The Nationalist Party believes that events of this calibre can be successful when there is consultation, communication, and clarity in decision-making, in the selection of the board to choose the artists, as well as transparency in how grants are awarded to artists,” the PN said.

In a reaction, a government statement by the Ministry for National Heritage said that it was “truly regrettable that the Opposition has come out so strongly against a cultural event that places the country on the international cultural calendar and is under the patronage of UNESCO.”

Government said that the maltabiennale.art, even before its opening, had already been indicated by international journals of fame and reputation as an event that would make the country a destination worth visiting.

“The Opposition spokespersons, who hardly ever spoke about this prestigious cultural event in their Budget estimates speech, have issued a confused statement, showing clearly the true motives of a negative Opposition which shows in their attitude towards initiatives that continue to strengthen the artistic and cultural sector in our country,” it said.

The statement read that Zahra should understand how this biennale exposes valuable collaboration in the already thriving art scene in Malta, between local and foreign artists.

The Ministry also noted that the entrance fees for biennale visitors are the same as those paid to enter Heritage Malta sites.

It said that there has been no increase in the price, meaning that the biennale is “virtually free” when considering that it grants access to museums and exhibitions simultaneously.

“This is aside from the fact that large numbers of families with Heritage Malta passports, which grant free access to all Heritage Malta sites, will have free access to the maltabiennale.art as well,” government said.

It accused the PN of “a series of fake news” where it claimed that the biennale lacks programs for school children to visit.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a program has been ongoing since before the biennale's opening, involving artists who are participating. Visits and activities for school children are continuously being organized free of charge for students,” government said.

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