That is, until the APS Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale showed up and placed Malta firmly in the international art circuit. And this year’s exhibition looks to be their biggest yet.
“The APS Mdina Biennale aims to incite thought on art and its contemporary context; be it political, social, geographical, or physical,” says Nikki Petroni, the event’s curator. “The visual arts must succeed in manifesting beauty even when focusing on topics that are contentious and disturbing. Linking contemporary art with the past is vital for this.”
The Mdina Biennale has taken two decades to develop into its current form. It had originally focused on Catholic-inspired art, as you can imagine in anything Maltese, before transforming into the more critical and philosophical exhibition that it is today under the guidance of Artistic Director Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci.
“The Mdina Biennale is an event tied with a particular theme related to contemporary happenings in the Mediterranean and beyond. The theme always has something to do with spirituality, that is, mankind’s existence and its meaning – or, absence of,” he says.
He explains how the Biennale centres around a simple question: “what the hell are we doing here?”
The Mdina Biennale is also taking aim at the “commercial-consumerist character” of other Biennales, by trying to take their Biennale back to “a space in which themes are discussed and interrelated visually through a multi media approach,” said Dr. Schembri Bonaci.
The Biennale is perfectly set up in the Mdina Cathedral Museum, turning the classic cathedral into a living, breathing exhibition space.
With 32 artists involved this year, both local as well as from places like Russia, the USA and the UK, this year’s Mdina Biennale is set to be Malta’s premiere art event – and it might even help you figure out what the hell you are doing here.
The APS Mdina Biennale runs until Sunday 7th January 2018 at the Mdina Cathedral Museum. Further information may be found on the official website www.mdinabiennale.com. An exhibition catalogue has been published by Horizons and may be purchased from local bookshops.
Photography by Elisa von Brockdorff