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Modern Art museum in Valletta

In a letter published on January 4, I had suggested that the Auberges in Valletta should be turned into museums in the same way that the Palace is also partly a museum.

These historic buildings ought to be given far more importance by opening them to the public or turning them into museums. Opening the Auberges in Valletta to the public would also be a way of creating historic continuity as they would then be accessible to tourists.

Public awareness of the Knights' legacy would ensure their preservation and upkeep. Having part of these magnificent buildings rehabilitated to include display areas would create endless possibilities for housing other collections, such as a Maltese silver collection or a Majolica museum, to name just two random examples of what could be put on permanent exhibition.

It is often stated that the Auberges are already open to the public and that anyone can walk in and visit. This is not what I mean by opening converted parts of the Auberges into public museums. A plan that encompasses the restoration of all the Auberges as part of our historic patrimony as a Valletta Auberge Museum Scheme is quite a different thing.

The Auberges are authentic period buildings designed by architects and engineers (many of whom were Maltese) who worked for the Knights of St John. These buildings are the centrepiece and crowning glory of the city, yet their main use and function seems to be offices for civil servants.

Surely, the rehabilitation of Valletta should be about reutilising these historic buildings.

In the 1980s, there was a short-lived attempt at converting Palazzo Spinola in St Julian's into a Museum of Modern Art. I feel that it floundered because a Museum of Modern Art should be given far more importance and housed more centrally in the capital, Valletta, possibly in a building like the Auberge de Baviere. This would also make sense if Fort St Elmo were to be restored.

The regeneration of Fort St Elmo and the Opera House site might attract foreign investors in art. For instance, Venice awarded no less than the Palazzo Grassi and the Dogana to François Pinault in which to house his immense art collection. These sites are now highly successful museums in their own right.

This may or may not happen here, but there are many quality Maltese artists of the Modern period whose work is virtually unknown.

Much of their work languishes in storage for lack of display space. Surely, a Mediterranean port city like Valletta, which depends on tourism, can only stand to gain by investing in art and culture. I would also draw attention to Marseille, another Mediterranean city port and designated European capital of culture for 2013, which is working hard to upgrade its image. The French government is pouring money into two new museums.

Yet another example would be the Marino Marini Museum, also in the historical centre of Florence, which is housed in the ancient church of S. Pancrazio. The museum contains 180 works by Marino Marini (1901-1980) donated by the sculptor and his wife Marina at different times of his life.

Our own Antonio Sciortino, who was both the director of the British Academy, Rome, and the curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, Malta, and made a name for himself internationally as a sculptor, is displayed here on the island with barely any importance!

Would it be so difficult to have a similar museum displaying Sciortino's work in Valletta? It would be hard to find someone more deserving.

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