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A space for the NOW

Marking Valletta Contemporary’s first year of operation.

April of this year marked one year since the opening of Valletta Contemporary. The gallery is run by the META Foundation, which was initiated by artist and architect Norbert Francis Attard.

Artist and architect Norbert Francis Attard – Owner of Valletta Contemporary

The people of Malta, and everyone else who graces our shores with their presence, deserve a space where they can feast their eyes, ears and souls on the variety of moving, exciting and confusing media which artists use to express themselves in contemporary art. And has the space delivered? Boasting eight shows in its first year of operation, the space has certainly kept its team of gallery assistants and advisers very busy. Joanna Delia (JD), head of META Foundation’s Advisory Board, caught up with Norbert Francis Attard (NFA), who is also the gallery’s Artistic Director, to get some insight into Valletta Contemporary’s first year of operation.

Photo: Carlos Coronas – Los territorios soñados. Central work: Lampyridae No. 13,19 & 20.

JD: Could you give us an overall summary of how the first year of Valletta Contemporary went for you?
NFA: The first year was a challenge, since apart from realising the exhibition programme, there were many other issues within the gallery’s organisation structure to address. These included finishing off the venue itself, developing an educational program, and employing new staff. Apart from this, and as part of our day-to-day operations, we were developing new schemes to support our project, sourcing funding opportunities, increasing our visibility, and so much more.

Photo: Dan Hudson, Illusion of the Sun Going Down, 2015. Show: Dan Hudson – That Golden Stain of Time.
Photo: Nadine Baldow – Pristine Paradise Show. Caution. Contaminated Artefacts, 2019.

JD: How satisfied are you with this first year?
NFA: I’m rarely satisfied. There is always room for improvement and development which makes ‘total satisfaction’ impossible, in my opinion. Considering all the constraints we have dealt with I am pleased with our first calendar year and the diversity of our exhibition programme. We have hosted some great artists, such as Mona Hatoum, Bruce Nauman, Joan Jonas, etc. and we have worked to ensure we are keeping on the right track.

JD: What would you have done differently?
NFA: Dealing with people has proved difficult, as some situations can be quite demanding. I am originally an artist, and was therefore inexperienced as a gallerist in dealing with commercial galleries and curators. I made a decision to have better agreements and contracts in place – I think one needs to be clear about everything from the very beginning.

Left: Patrick Mifsud, Equivalent – Geometric Construct I, 2019. Center: Damien Hirst, Mescaline, 2014. Right: Ian Howard, Big Red, 2018.

JD: Has the project exceeded your expectations?
NFA: Even though much remains to be done, I consider the first year to have gone better than expected. In total we have had eight exhibitions over eight months and published a 240-page catalogue as a detailed summary of what has been shown throughout the year. This will now be an annual publication as part of Valletta Contemporary’s identity.

JD: How have other players reacted to Valletta Contemporary?
NFA: I firmly believe that we are giving a great opportunity to all the artists exhibiting at Valletta Contemporary. We strive towards achieving a reputation of excellence, and this achievement would make an artist proud to be associated with our project.

JD: What kind of feedback did you receive?
The best two compliments I received were that the venue is a beautiful, overwhelming space; and that we’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to representing the up-and-coming contemporary art scene in Malta.

JD: Are you excited about the coming year’s shows and operations?
NFA: This year we can afford to be more ambitious than the last and I can even say that the coming year will outdo our first! We have placed ourselves in a stronger position and I believe we are able to deal professionally with reputable galleries, institutions, curators and artists. This gives us the confidence to aim even higher and deliver the best we can to the Maltese public.

Valletta Contemporary is located on East Street in Valletta.

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