Valletta Contemporary: siphoning the currents of a global art world into Malta’s capital
Valletta Contemporary (VC) is Malta's premier space for contemporary art. This gallery prompts and gives home to Malta's diverse cultural community, championing contemporary art as a catalyst for discussion, social cohesion, and cultural discovery. The META Foundation runs the independent exhibition space and art gallery, and since its opening in 2018, has become the anchor for a new cultural quarter in Malta's capital, Valletta. Located at the lower east end of the city – on the periphery and away from the main centre – VC has been an agent of regeneration and activity to a lesser-known part of the city.
Palimpsests of the historical and contemporary
The gallery’s physical space was conceived, designed, and realised by its director – artist and architect Norbert Francis Attard. Built within a 400-year-old former warehouse, the space merges past with present, with contemporary interiors juxtaposing sleek, crisp materiality against the original features of its vaulted Valletta property. This layering of history speaks to the gallery’s philosophy and its approach to the exhibition of contemporary art. Its exhibitions and events are mettled in their intention to interrogate cultural contexts, to provoke unconventional readings, and to jolt the typical experience of seeing art in three-dimensional space.
A vessel for transmutation
The architecture of the gallery becomes an agent to the transformative power of the art it carries. In its inaugural exhibition, ‘The Dreamed Territories’ (2018), Carlos Coronas’ large-scale, angular light sculptures were brought into the space as luminescent ecosystems. A year later in Nadine Baldow’s ‘Pristine Paradise’ (2019), the gallery became an incubator for absurd scenarios, with foreign organisms occupying everyday objects, including fridges, washing-machines and cooking facilities. An artificial kind of nature occupied the space within the gallery walls, overrun by deforming and corroding fungus-like organisms. The double-height main atrium offered new dimension to the work of Mareo Rodrigues in ‘Portals’ (2021), whose solo show included interventions that were site-specific to the gallery’s historic fabric. His luminescent fractures dominated the gallery’s internal spaces, creating a tension positioned as a constant force of repulsion and attraction – as an uninhabitable, endless space.
Contemporary framing and recognition
Valletta Contemporary showcases the work of influential contemporary artists through a dynamic, and internationally facing temporary exhibition programme that runs throughout the year. VC’s regular collective shows act as indexes to the gallery’s discursive and curatorial aspirations, each including works from contemporary artists who have had a catalytic impact on the progression of art theory and practice throughout the world.
‘Electromorphologies’ (2018), curated by Vince Briffa, brought together the work of Peter Campus, David Hall, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman, Paul Sharits, Steina and Woody Vasulka, and Bill Viola in a show that recognised pioneering video art and its language. ‘Afternminimalism’, (2019), curated by Norbert Francis Attard and Francesca Mangion, included works by Brian Eno, Liam Gillick and Damien Hirst amongst others in its revisitation of minimalism, framing the movement from a methodological rather than a thematic perspective. ‘Non Aligned Networks’ (2019), curated by Yasemin Keskintepe included a cohort of artists interrogating the Internet as a boundless repository of information and a site for global data exchange.
Collaboration and Outreach
VC collaborates extensively with local and international organisations and collectors, running regular outreach programmes and diverse educational and knowledge-sharing initiatives. Each aims at establishing a meaningful connection between the local community and contemporary art. The gallery also runs a thriving education programme, whose spirit holds parallel with director Norbert Francis Attard’s residency programme, Gozo Contemporary (launched in 2001), an endeavour that introduces artists and creative practitioners to Gozo’s offering as an inspiring creative environment with opportunities for exploration and discovery within a Mediterranean setting.
Continuity and Leadership
VC’s leadership at the helm of Norbert Francis Attard is channelled through the META Foundation, an advisory and administrative body that provides the policy guidelines and support required to run a world-class gallery. The META Foundation is committed to making waves within the art community, offering notable Maltese artists a forum to present and discuss their work. The META Foundation also focuses on the internationalisation of the gallery through a regular programme of international contemporary artists, showcasing both established names and emerging artists from around the world.
Editions and Publications
Aside from its diverse programme of exhibitions, the gallery has run an ongoing initiative to support selected local and international contemporary artists through commissioning the production of contemporary art pieces. VC Editions comes together as a collaboration with artists that works to showcase their exhibited works beyond the lifetime of their respective shows. Structured as a small-scale version of the traditional gallery-artist representation format, artworks are chosen by the gallery in consultation with the artist and reproduced in numbered editions, each made available for sale exclusively through VC gallery. Editions are sold in VC’s gallery shop, designed to support VC’s mission and the work of emerging artists and designers. VC also publishes an annual programme catalogue, which covers in-depth coverage of each of the year’s shows, including curatorial essays and artist interviews.
15, 16, 17, Triq l-Vant (East Street), Valletta. VLT1253, Malta
Tel: 00356 21234141 (landline), 00356 79041051 (mobile)