Freedom of Information request shows €700,000 spent on failed Biennale so far

Heritage Malta spent €700,000 to organise the first edition of the Malta Biennale, although the event failed to attract the popular attention the organisers had hoped for.

The two-month event is ongoing and includes artworks hosted in 20 different venues around the island, from historic forts to the Grand Master’s Palace.

A list of payments made by Heritage Malta so far, obtained by The Shift through a Freedom of Information request, shows a raft of direct orders to companies in Malta and foreign artists to exhibit their works. Thousands were spent on flying foreign journalists in to cover the event as well as advertising.

Yet, the event failed to leave a mark on the local and international artistic community.

Heritage Malta, headed by Mario Cutajar, the former Principal Permanent Secretary under disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, refused to publish tens of contracts signed with commissioned artists and event organisers, citing “commercially sensitive information”.

According to the list obtained, Keith Chetcuti, the former CEO of Keith Schembri’s Kasco business, was the biggest beneficiary, with direct orders surpassing €100,000 mark for different services, including the supply of lights, equipment, and decorations for a party through his company ICAN Ltd.

Tens of thousands of euro were paid to travel agencies to bring in curators, artists and journalists from around the world, including Mexico and the United States.

Heritage Malta also spent considerable sums to promote the festival locally and overseas.

Euronews was paid €20,000 for footage of the Biennale, while billboards costing approximately €4,000 each were peppered across various parts of the island.

Even the small local F Living channel was paid to promote the festival, while Labour TV presenter Simone Cini was paid almost €1,000 to promote the festival through a private company, Capuccino Ltd.

The lavish opening ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Robert Abela, cost tens of thousands of euro and included the catering for an after-party.

One of the catering companies engaged, Collision Catering, owned by Jonathan Pace, was given a direct contract by Heritage Malta in 2022 to turn Mdina’s Vilhena Palace into a restaurant.

Midway through the event, Heritage Malta started selling entrance tickets at a 50% discount after failing to attract visitors.


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9 days ago

The art was mediocre. Forced. Unimaginative. A lot had been done before. Regurgitating concepts is not innovation. If the biennale is a celebration of local art, then it failed miserably and came nowhere near the mark. So much more could have been done with much less.

Carmelo borg
9 days ago

Mario CUTAJAR fiex jifhem f arti l AQWA LI ikompli ihaxxen butu MHUX HEKK GAHAN.

Paul Camilleri
Paul Camilleri
9 days ago

Amateurs – our museums are a chaotic disaster, devoid of any semblance of strategy or context.

paul pullicino
paul pullicino
9 days ago

This article appeared in the morning. By evening time the PBS boys inserted into the news a lovely expose’ of this project. It would have taken a few urgent phone calls.

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