Malta Contemporary Art (MCA) Is Back With A Brand New Space

Ready to challenge viewers and put Malta back on the international art scene

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When Malta Contemporary Art (MCA) was founded in 2008 there was nothing quite like it on the islands. Its exhibitions enjoyed around 2,500 visitors each, and featured exciting contemporary artists – both local and international.

The year before the project's inception, founder and director Mark Mangion had curated a series of exhibitions entitled The Search for a Space, located mostly in non-art spaces including the Marsa Open Centre, a private apartment, an empty warehouse space in Floriana, and an abandoned examination centre. One converted warehouse in Marsa later, and the MCA had a gallery, a mission, and a steadily growing audience. 

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"Back in 2008 I set up MCA as an artist project to create a vibrant, and engaging and critical forum for contemporary art in Malta which had an international outlook to it. I felt that through my research after having lived and practiced as an artist and curator for many years in London and New York City, there was no serious and relevant contemporary art gallery or space in Malta," MCA founder Mark Mangion tells Lovin Malta. 

We spoke to him about his initial ideas for the foundation of the MCA, and why he felt he needed to create a space dedicated to contemporary art. "Though there were artists engaged in various scattered independent projects, there was no real focal point or sense of support, community and network," Mangion said. "This led me to invest all my energy and personal resources into MCA." 

"MCA’s philosophy was to become Malta's focal point for contemporary art – a serious forum and support network for artists, curators and others professionals in the field"

Mark Mangion, founder and director Malta Contemporary Art

MCA had a strong presence within the local art scene in Malta. The Marsa warehouse soon made way for a collaboration with St James Cavalier, Valletta in 2010. MCA would host exhibitions there for two years, and they would also design and converted the upper galleries into what they are today

"MCA’s philosophy was to become Malta's focal point for contemporary art and a serious forum and support network for artists, curators and others professionals in the field to engage with an expanding public via a dynamic and serious space and series of events," Mangion tells us. 

But some people are not fully aware of the extent of the MCA's reach. From 2011 to 2015, the MCA no longer had a physical presence in Malta – it established itself as a roving project entitled Parallel Borders presenting projects in Athens, Rome, Zurich, Graz, Paris, Brussels, London and Reykjavik.

"MCA became very well regarded internationally, especially considering the budgets it had to work with. It changed structure and migrated and operated internationally for several years."

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Tobias Spichtig 'Black' 2014, at  FORUM STADTPARK Photo: Franziska von Stenglin © MCA 

And now, it's back as a tangible space again, and will be reopening later this spring in Valletta. Mangion gives some insight as to what Maltese audiences should expect.

"While it will promote Maltese artists, MCA will also continue to present significant and emerging international artists. MCA has always and will always put a very strong emphasis on supporting women artists not purely because they are women and still underrepresented around the world but because we firmly believe in the strength of such a direction."

"Art is for anyone who takes the time and wants to enjoy it, consume it, connect with it and learn from it or hate it"

Mark Mangion, founder and director Malta Contemporary Art

So will this renewed project shake things up a bit on the local art scene? Founder Mark Mangion is less concerned with looking inward than he is with ensuring that Malta has a meaningful impact on an international stage. 

"Sadly, currently, the Maltese art scene has one of the poorest international representations in Europe and MCA aims to continue to work hard and closely with a selection of Maltese artists to try and infiltrate and influence important art fairs, museums, collections and major international shows and biennials offering better exposure. I feel there is still a long way to go but there is a new generation of artists that is growing and hopefully have better opportunities than past ones." 

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Helmut Weber, Sabine Bitter, 2010 Photo: courtesy of the Artists, © MCA 

Last year Lovin Malta speculated on the interest of the general public towards art in Malta. With the advent of the MCA re-emerging this spring, we ask Mangion what he thinks the appetite is like at the moment.

"Art is for anyone who takes the time and wants to enjoy it, consume it, connect with it and learn from it or hate it. It's there and it's up to the public to indulge in it and create a dialogue. Of course education and exposure play a huge part in making art more accessible. Having said that, for me, one of the major roles of an artist, gallery, curator and especially an institution is to offer high standards of relevant work and curatorial experimentation that challenge the viewer rather than appease them."

With that in mind we're majorly excited to watch the MCA as its next chapter unfolds. This truly is an exciting time for contemporary art in Malta, but the MCA – as with any other institution – can only reach its full potential if audiences engage with it. Let's hope we're up for the challenge. 

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Written By

Ann Dingli

Ann Dingli writes mostly about art and design. She enjoys friendly debates and has accepted that she's a small person.