Inspired by New York’s world-famous MET Gala, Valletta Contemporary art gallery held its own red carpet fundraiser on December 14. Head of the advisory board Joanna Delia talks to us about the glamorous art-meets-high fashion event and its role in supporting contemporary art in Malta

Congratulations on pulling off The MET(a) Gala. Can you tell us about the event and how it fits into the vision for Valletta Contemporary.

When planning the third big annual fundraiser for Valletta Contemporary, we wanted it to be the Maltese version of the world famous MET gala, the annual fundraiser organised by the MET ‒ the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which attracts the world’s most fabulous celebrities. And since the Valletta Contemporary galleries are run by the META foundation, the concept and name simply translated into MET[a] Gala. I also believe the community in Malta was pushing for an event which married fashion and art.

I understand that a lot of hard work has gone into organising the MET(a) Gala. Can you give us an insight into the organisation and planning?

The installation by our current exhibiting artist, Charlie Cauchi, made the perfect setting. Then the magnificent Michelle Degiorgio orchestrated the event functionally in terms of catering, staffing and coordinating with Patrick Barbaro Sant to set the perfect mood music-wise. The team at the gallery, including the artistic director and the man behind it all, Norbert Attard, Manuela Zammit, Emma Fsadni and Karolina Rostkowska all worked tirelessly promoting the event.

The MET(a) Gala was a collaboration between Valletta Contemporary and some prominent figures in Malta. Can you tell us about the people you brought on board?

Early in the year we appointed a Gala committee, made up of creatives from a number of different spheres of influence in Malta. Artist Cauchi and fashion designer Luke Azzopardi I would say dressed the night in glossy decadence, while Iggy Fenech, editor of the Sunday Circle, helped with press and media exposure.

Co-chairs Tugce Ergul and myself were the ones who initially volunteered to take this fundraiser to the highest levels and I consider it a privilege and an honour. It has been very hard work but a lot of fun to dive into a project like this.

Norbert Attard has built the entire Valletta Contemporary project with his own funds and hopes that his legacy lives on, while architect Konrad Buhagiar cannot help but support anything that promotes culture and art education.

Traditionally Malta has always been an art patron’s paradise

Businesswoman and Insta-queen Tamara Webb, Malta’s sweetheart, is actually a history of art student and she has helped spice up the event’s promotion. And then there’s the amazing Julia Boikova, fashion designer and professional events planner.

Can you tell us a little about the purpose of the event, what the fundraising effort has been in aid of and why the cause is important?

As the team behind the Valletta Contemporary Galleries we believe Malta deserves an independent, not-for-profit space to inspire and enrich lives, and it was about time Malta was exposed to the wealth of talent the contemporary art scene has to offer. In order for this to be sustained, the foundation holds fundraising initiatives.

Joanna DeliaJoanna Delia

In the last two years, Valletta Contemporary has already held two very successful and fully subscribed sit-down fundraising dinners surrounded by incredible art installations. In fact, we chose the date to fit around the most appropriate show of the year. This year we wanted to offer the public an opportunity to support the space and its running while engaging fully with Cauchi’s installation art show, Scheherazade.

Running almost 1,000 square metres of pure art, hosting exhibitions every six to eight weeks, an incredible educational programme and other trans-cultural initiatives, and paying the salaries of the amazing team behind it all is very costly.

We want the foundation to be a sustainable, uncensored place where we don’t only show art which is for sale but also powerful, emotional installations.

Valletta Contemporary is also a physical space in which emerging Maltese artists can interpret their dreams and bring them to fruition. I have made it my mission to inspire people to support all this  while having the time of their lives. Many people feel that art is not something for them, hence the need for a night like this.

Who would you say are your typical patrons and why do they support your work?

Traditionally Malta has always been an art patron’s paradise and I feel we need to bring this back. Successful companies worldwide understand that their legacy is strengthened through their support of contemporary art. Our patrons vary from passionate individuals to national level organisations, but naturally we hope that the number of supporters increases.

Now that the MET(a) Gala is over, what were the highlights for you personally?

I love people! And I love the ability of art to bring extraordinary people together. I love it when colourful minds collide to discuss an artist’s work. The MET[a] Gala was the perfect backdrop for this, and for showing off so many Luke Azzopardi ball gowns. How beautiful they were!

Guests on the Meta Gala red carpet. Photo: Semih OkmenGuests on the Meta Gala red carpet. Photo: Semih Okmen

Are you planning to make the MET(a) Gala a repeat event?

I think we’ve set a precedent; an epic start to what will surely be a lasting tradition and an annual fixture. So many have already pledged support for next year’s edition. It already feels like we will be over-subscribed.

Valletta Contemporary is still relatively new on the art scene in Malta. Can you give us a bit of back-story on the gallery and tell new visitors what they might expect?

The Valletta Contemporary galleries are the brainchild of contemporary artist Norbert Francis Attard and opened to the public just over 18 months ago. It is a space designed to house world-class contemporary art, for people in Malta to experience for free. It is crucial that children, young people, residents and visitors alike are given the opportunity to view the world through the window of contemporary art.

I suppose the gallery is like the Tate Modern or the centre Pompidou on a Maltese scale. It’s a great space literally carved out of three old warehouses in Valletta. On entry, I must say that people are usually impressed by the high level of renovation it underwent over a gruelling 10-year period, and since the principal show changes every six weeks, there is always something new to experience. It’s a place where the community can meet, where the Valletta commuter can have a break between meetings and where the real world meets real art.

Joanna Delia wearing Luke Azzopardi. Photo: Semih OkmenJoanna Delia wearing Luke Azzopardi. Photo: Semih Okmen

What are the current and upcoming exhibitions taking place at the gallery?

The current show is Scheherazade; a multi-disciplinary and immersive installation built around the concept of a Soho nightclub, by Cauchi. His work is about coercion, cruelty, love, violence, sex and entertainment, and will run until February.

The MET(a) Gala seems to have been a great way to end 2019 on a high. Can you tell us what’s coming up next in the new year?

In 2020, Valletta Contemporary opens its annual programme with a celebration of our achievements as a contemporary art space so far, and an invitation to the local community to come and inhabit our space.

The first exhibition of the year, Up to Now, presents an eclectic mix of works by local and international artists that have already made an appearance in our shows from the past two years. It includes photography, sculpture, video and installation.

Following this we will launch an exciting series of events, talks, workshops and exhibitions.

The gallery will become a social and communal place where discussion and exchange can happen, or where one can simply choose to spend some time flipping through a good book in an inspiring environment.

Valletta Contemporary is located at 15-17 East Street in Valletta. For information, contact info@vallettacontemporary.com or call 2124 1667.