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Contemporary Maltese art and architecture in Libya

The imposing façade of the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in Tripoli, designed by Architect Martin Xuereb

The imposing façade of the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in Tripoli, designed by Architect Martin Xuereb

The 2003 Malta International Art Biennale, opening on June 1, will offer Libya the opporunity to host a worldwide cultural event.

A selection of works of art from 50 countries will be inaugurated on September 23 at the Corinthia Group's latest hotel - the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in Tripoli - by Malta's Ambassador to Libya, Dr Richard Vella Laurenti. Subsequently, a selected number of works will be presented at the Academy for Graduate Studies by Dr Ayad Hashem and Dr Widad Laradi.

On my latest visit to Libya - my third to that country - I experienced with tremendous surprise and excitement the modern architectural philosophy of line and space conquest in the design of the Corinthia's 300-bed hotel, which is already receiving guests.

I discovered it was designed by a Maltese architect, Martin Xuereb. So where else could the Malta Biennale be presented?

While discovering the open public areas vibrating with light, which will host the Biennale, one can easily fall under the spell of both the Arabesque and the Moorish elements in the interior design which paid tribute to an important phase of Libyan life and culture.

The hotel also has colourful scenes by the distinguished Maltese artist Luciano Micallef. The scenes acclaim his figurative talent and his large abstract original oil paintings in the public areas of the function room fascinated the visitors.

Malta proved to be most enchantingly present at the Corinthia, as if preparing for the forthcoming Malta Biennale.

The Biennale will include works by artists from 50 countries, including Malta (Anton Agius, Nikki Arnett Depasquale, Joseph Barbara, Elizabeth Borg, Gabriel Caruana, Anthony Calleja, Charles Cassar, Paul Cassar, Jessica Debattista, Sina Farrugia, Joe Genovese, Pawlu Grech, Paul Haber, Matthew Kassar, Tony Mangion, Matthew Mirabelli, Arthur Rizzo and Marie-Anne Zammit).

But Malta's "architectural" presence does not stop in Tripoli. Some 40 km west of the capital towards Sabratha (where a visit has been organised for the overseas attendance at the Malta Biennale in Libya) an extaordinary villa among the orange groves is designed by architect Stephen Mangion, repeating the three-pointed arches on the façade and in all the internal structures. The villa hosts an impressive collection of Malta Biennale artists' works.

Malta has brought and still brings to Libya the creativity of the Maltese artists and architects, and this year it is bringing an especially important event, the International Malta Art Biennale.

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