Cost of state-sponsored ‘Siggu’ to remain secret while biennale costs challenged

Heritage Malta refuses to state how much it paid Gozitan artist Austin Camilleri to produce a controversial temporary monument in front of the imposing statue of Queen Victoria in Valletta.

The organisation turned down a Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed by The Shift and insisted that it could not give an account of the money involved as this “would have an adverse effect on the artist”.

The Shift has filed for a reconsideration, arguing that since this work of art involved public funds and was commissioned through a direct order, Heritage Malta must be accountable and transparent.

Camilleri’s latest art installation, part of Malta’s biennale, is a replica of the chair from Queen Victoria’s iconic statue in Valletta’s Pjazza Regina.

It was installed directly in front of the statue, obscuring it from where it usually dominates attention on Republic Street outside Malta’s National Library,  sparking mixed reactions.

Sources at Heritage Malta told The Shift that no one at the organisation knows how Camilleri was selected, as no open competition was held to identify Maltese artists to participate in the biennale.  Other artists also complained about their exclusion.

Gozitan Artist Austin Camilleri

Camilleri has produced various other works commissioned by the government in the past.

A few years ago, Camilleri also caused controversy through his art when a three-legged bronze horse, Zieme, was temporarily placed in front of Renzo Piano’s Parliament building.

More recently, the Gozo Ministry selected Camilleri to replicate his Zieme concept on the coast of Xwejni, one of Gozo’s pristine coastlines.

A render of the abstract equestrian monument earmarked for the untouched coastline of Xwejni, Gozo.

Sponsored by Minister Clint Camilleri’s Ministry and costing €250,000, Camilleri insisted on his installation in the environmentally sensitive area despite objections by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, which declared it incompatible with the area.

Notwithstanding hundreds of objections,  the Planning Authority (PA) still issued the permit, but the statute has not yet been installed.

Heritage Malta’s resistance to providing all the details on the amount of public funds it has spent on the biennale has increased suspicions about the figures published so far.

Following another FOI request by The Shift, Heritage Malta said it had spent €700,000 to hold Malta’s first biennale. However, critics highly contest this, insisting that much more has been spent.

Mario Cutajar‘s list does not include payments, such as the one to Austin Camileri for his ‘siġġu’ sculpture and many others.

Sources told The Shift that the final figure for the biennale costs is likely to be much higher than what has been stated so far and includes several hundreds of thousands coming from other organisations, such as MICAS, the Malta Tourism Authority, and other ministries.


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Jay Ho
Jay Ho
1 month ago

Yet another money pit paid by our taxes into direct orders for piggy chums. I can never understand how repeated FOI requests regarding OUR MONEY for events we didn’t ask for or want keeps getting rejected. If all was good value, and cleanly executed, then there should be no problem presenting the figures for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sadly we all know the facts are that the money was earmarked for mates of mates, grossly overcharged and massively under delivered, as always.

1 month ago

kulhadd jithanzer kemm jiflah u l-poplu onest ihallas

Josette Portelli
Josette Portelli
1 month ago
Reply to  carlos

Dik hi sabiħa. Li kulħadd irid iħallas għalihom dal-ħniżrijiet mhux minn min tellagħhom fil-gvern biss!

1 month ago

This is what the MLP gahans voted for; this is what the rest of us have to put up with.

John Mizzi
John Mizzi
1 month ago

Regimes select their own artists and that is how it works with Labour. A.Camilleri has been for the past decade building an image for himself establishing his reputation as an intellectual artist when in fact he is not. He built this fake image for his own benefit to obtain public funds from different government schemes. Some decade ago he got funds from the state to make a three-legged horse which for those with a keen eye for detail can be clearly identified as a commercial work done in a Chinese foundry the artist used to frequent with the assistance of a certain priest. It is said that after the Valletta arts festival was over, Gozo minister Anton Refalo was approached by Camilleri expressing his interest to sell it to the Gozo ministry. Hold on a second, a three-legged horse done in a commercial foundry in China which was funded by the state for Camilleri’s participation, then the same Camilleri intended to sell it to the same state which funded his horse. Perhaps minister Anton Refalo has something to say about this proposal by Camilleri.

Raymond Zammit
1 month ago

Let’s put the politics for once at a side and and start thinking that we are a sovereign nation,and instead of queen’s monument we do a monument of our first President of the Republic Sir Anthony Mamo. Of course we move the queen’s monument to another location.

28 days ago

Trasparenza xejn… Bhas-soltu jigu mbuttati certa artisti, tajbin jew le, u sejha miftuha ghal kompetizzjoni matura u genwina – barra mit-tieqa

Last edited 28 days ago by Ina

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