The publicly funded Valletta Cultural Agency (VCA) paid some €50,000 to organise ‘Patrick Dalli, The Journey’, a month-long solo exhibition of the paintings of the husband of former Labour Minister and European Commissioner Helena Dalli at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, The Shift can reveal.
The exhibit includes an €8,000 catalogue commissioned from La Nave di Teseo, an Italian publishing house owned by the sister of the Italian critic Vittorio Sgarbi, a personal friend of the artist.
VCA CEO Catherine Tabone refused to explain how the Agency chose Dalli and whether other artists were given the same opportunity through a transparent selection process.
She was also asked to state how much money the VCA paid to organise the exhibition, whether it was the VCA’s remit to fund such solo exhibitions, to list all expenses made and to state whether the procurement was done through tenders or direct orders. No replies were given.
Following a Freedom of Information request, The Shift was sent a copy of invoices that showed taxpayers paid almost €50,000 for the solo exhibition, although a good part of these funds was redirected to Heritage Malta to rent out the Grand Salon at the National Museum of Archeology. All service providers were selected by direct order, including GBK Malta Ltd which was paid €5,782 to act as Dalli’s exhibition coordinator.
Dalli donated a portrait of disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, quietly installed at the Auberge de Castille in September 2021, almost two years after Muscat’s forced resignation. Unlike his predecessors, Muscat’s portrait was given no publicity. The painting was only discovered by chance when journalists were invited to cover an unrelated OPM meeting.
Another of Dalli’s paintings made headlines in 2017 when news broke that the OPM had issued a €15,000 direct order to acquire the nude for the prime minister’s residence at Girgenti Palace. Muscat refused to give any details about the acquisition and the painting was only revealed following a Freedom of Information request. Critics described it as overpriced, valuing it at just one-third of the price paid by taxpayers.
Questions sent to Patrick Dalli remained unanswered.