London-based culture ambassador silent on second MICAS commission

His gallery sells selected artist’s works


Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti

Gozitan designer Francis Sultana, nominated by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat as Malta’s ‘Ambassador for Culture’ in 2018, has failed to answer questions on any connection between the commissioning of an artwork by an American artist and his profession as an art dealer.

Following the commissioning of a €500,000 statue by MICAS in 2019 by Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone, The Shift has been informed that Sultana was also behind MICAS’s latest acquisition, ‘The Palm Goddess for Malta’, by American artist Michele Oka Doner.

While, according to Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, the large bronze statue has been ‘loaned’ to the Maltese government, “free of charge” for ten years, the government bound itself to place it in a prominent place in Valletta – adding to its value – and to pay for all expenses related to transportation, insurance and security.

The Palm Goddess for Malta installed in central Valletta

Additionally, according to the loan contract, signed by Noel Zammit on behalf of Heritage Malta, any commercial proceeds from the work of art are to be shared with the American artist.

Francis Sultana works as the CEO of David Gill Gallery in London, owned by his long-time partner, David Gill.

Among the works of art his gallery sells and trades are those of the latest MICAS-commissioned artist, Oka Doner.

Sultana promoting Oka Doner art at his business

Sultana is a central figure at MICAS – Malta’s International Contemporary Art Space – which is still a work in progress, several years after its opening target date.

The Shift asked Sultana to explain his personal and commercial connections with the selected artist and whether, like in the case of Rondinone, he took the initiative to introduce them to MICAS and its Chairman, Phyllis Muscat.

The Shift also asked Sultana whether he declared his potential conflict of interest as a member of the government-appointed MICAS Board and its Creative Committee. Sultana did not reply to any of the questions despite multiple email reminders.

The government-appointed Chair of MICAS, Phyllis Muscat, also declined to give any details when contacted by The Shift.

The government-appointed Chair of MICAS, Phyllis Muscat

As Malta’s Ambassador for Culture and a member of the MICAS board, Sultana is not paid.

Sultana has built an international reputation in the art and furniture world and also gives professional services to wealthy individuals across the globe on home décor and refurbishments, including the acquisition of artworks.

Through his business, he shares commissions on the art trades he manages to wrap up.

MICAS made no public calls before artists Ugo Rondinone and Michele Oka Doner were commissioned.


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Austin Sammut
Austin Sammut
19 days ago

Never heard of this Space actually! Incidentally, what qualifies Ms. Phyllis to be chairman. Is she not of CHOGM fame?

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