Understanding the context of contemporary visual art in Malta from 1989 to 2018 : a curator's perspective

Micallef, Katya (2019) Understanding the context of contemporary visual art in Malta from 1989 to 2018 : a curator's perspective. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis identifies and analyses the shifting of national and global contexts in which contemporary art practices in Malta were developed, understood and negotiated by artists, curators and commentators between 1989 and 2017. It establishes a detailed and comprehensive account of the development of contemporary art in Malta during this period and analyses the specific socio-political and cultural factors that impacted upon its diverse manifestations. Following an introduction to pre and post Independence Malta, the thesis focuses on the time period from 1989 - the year that marked the reconfiguration of Europe with the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent end of the Cold War - and 2017, the year Malta participated in the Venice Biennale and, as a member of the European Union, held the European Union Presidency while preparing to host the 2018 European Capital City of Culture. A significant part of this research has been the locating and analysing of primary unpublished and published visual and textual material that forms part of the complex history of contemporary art in Malta, including exhibition leaflets, newspaper reviews, policy documents, photographs and contemporary art works in private and public collections. The research is further informed by oral history interviews with key figures that are part of this complex multifaceted and largely previously unaccounted for history. Drawing upon postcolonial approaches, the thesis engages with definitions of contemporary art within local and global contexts, the practices of artists and curators, and the accompanying infrastructures of exhibition cultures, education and government policy in order to analyse and understand the specific historical and cultural contexts that have shaped the diverse forms and preoccupations of contemporary art in Malta since 1989. The thesis comprises of two volumes. The first volume is the written thesis of seven chapters, broadly chronological in order, with an introduction and conclusion. The second volume is an image-led, chronological catalogue intended to help future researchers navigate their way through the rich yet relatively unknown maze of contemporary art in Malta and to locate the primary material drawn from diverse public and private institutions, collections and archives during this research.

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