Malta’s pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia highlights

This is the third consecutive time that Malta has participated in La Biennale di Venezia, curators Keith Sciberras (MLT) and Jeffrey Uslip (USA); artists Arcangelo Sassolino (ITA) and Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci (MLT); and composer Brian Schembri (MLT)  re-articulated Caravaggio’s seminal altarpiece The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1608) as an immersive, sculptural, site-specific installation that bridges biblical narrative with contemporary culture.  The installation married the past with the future in a manner that incited its audience to share a space where the tragedy and brutality of St John’s execution is experienced in the present. The project has received outstanding international acclaim amongst other admirable achievements outlined in the following highlights.

Malta on the International Map

Apart from being highlighted as one of the favorite pavilions by acclaimed curators and publications, The Maltese Pavillion has invested heavily in placing Malta on the international map this year. The participation of internationally acclaimed Italian artist Arcangelo Sassolino has played a crucial role; in fact, ‘Diplomazija Asstuta’ has been featured in numerous acclaimed international magazines and online media portals with around 70 pieces of coverage, including socials, as well as online and offline pieces, which reached 65.8 million people—attracting over 900 thousand visitors through its doors. The curatorial concept and impressive installation have also attracted influential International collaborators, patrons, and sponsors, giving the Maltese Pavillion further recognition in the international art scene.

The art magazine Exibart  wrote on the installation, describing it as  a “kinetic and sculptural reimagining of Caravaggio’s seminal art piece,” with the Italian Corriere della Sera La Lettura, referring to it as “Sogni e Incubi dell’ Italia Industriale” (Dreams and Nightmares of Industrial Italy) with a direct reference to the molten steel created through Sassolino’s work. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Art Newspaper and Art Review all mentioned that the Maltese Pavilion is a ‘must see’, with La Repubblica dedicating a 2-page spread entitled ‘Gran Teatro Caravaggio’(The grandiose theatre of Caravaggio.)

The Carbon Neutral Journey

‘Diplomazija astuta is one of the first certified carbon neutral artworks in the world, meaning that its greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced, mitigated, or avoided due to specific interventions enacted during the creation, preparation, and setting up process.’

A set of actions were identified to preemptively reduce the artwork’s GHG emissions. Interventions included using renewable energy for the production of the work and full recovery of steel used, which will be recycled at a nearby site.

Residual emissions have been calculated with Tetis Insitute’s help and independently verified by international certification body DNV. Once certified, residual emissions were compensated using certified carbon credits with Carbonsink’s support – together with South Pole, the world biggest provider of emission reduction strategies and solutions.

Carbon credits used to offset Diplomazija astuta’s tons of residual emissions were generated by the Ntakata Mountains REDD project which started in 2017 in Tanganica District in west Tanzania to engage and support communities in local forest conservation activities. This project was specifically chosen by artist Sassolino for its alignment to Diplomazija astuta’s message. Working with local communities in vulnerable ecosystems, Ntakata Mountains Project combines climate and social inequality action, contributing to achieve 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs).

“Per un'arte responsabile talk" held on 21 October 2022.

Over 21 students integrated within the educational programm

Students across different art departments from The University of Malta and The Mcast Institute of Art have been selected for an internship program at the Venice Biennale. Acting as curatorial and exhibition assistants, the students had the chance to engage with audiences, build new relationships with other interns from different national pavilions, and experience a unique visit to Arcangelo Sassolino’s studio.

University of Malta students from Fine Arts and History of Art department, attending a workshop at Arcangelo Sassolino's studio in Vicenza, May 2022.

‘Succinctly putting this experience into words is certainly no easy feat, precisely because this experience is almost indescribable. All in all, this internship served as an incredibly fruitful experience which has left me with new friendships, professional relations, and skills, as well as an abundance of creative inspiration. Moreover, this experience has provided me with the beneficial and necessary foundations to begin this venture in the artistic sector.’

-Hannah Dowling- Intern at the Malta Pavilion 

Commissioned by Arts Council Malta, the team brought together a rather unexpected group featuring a Caravaggio scholar, a contemporary art curator, a kinetic art sculptor, a theorist/artist, a musician/conductor, and art managers, engineers, technicians, and designers.
Arcangelo Sassolino played a vital role within this team; his international recognition for his work, paired with the concept itself, were the highlight of this year’s Maltese Pavilion. Sassolino’s artistic practice can be defined by the alchemical transformation of matter and the axiom that particles are constantly in motion, seen (meta-mechanical sculptures) or unseen (atoms of air frenetically moving inside the tire). Sassolino’s kinetic sculptures often perform choreographed actions that mime human motions, gestures, and bodily responses, such as chewing, breathing, and touching.

Matese Artist Giuspee Schembri Bonnaci’s Metal and Science depicted a multilingual incision of text that weaves Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek- together with those languages that compose the Maltese Linguistic structure. Schembri Bonaci culls texts from Ezekiel 37 and Psalm I39 to present the recreation of humanity and universal act. The project’s composer, Brian Schembri, interacts with the machine’s falling fire output through a set of musical organising principles. 

Through a shared vision of the artists and the curatorial imprint of Keith Sciberras and Jeffrey Uslip, Diplomazija Asstuta presents a new social contract: viewers encounter a transcendent and immersive installation.

Arcangelo Sassolino, Laura Dequal, Dr Romina Delia, and Profs. Keith Sciberras at the University of Padova.

In conclusion, Malta’s Pavilion 2022 is definitely one that will leave an imprint both on the a national and international perspective. We have closely followed how this project has evolved, with impressive commitment, precision and dedication contributed by the team members. Curator Keith Sciberras explained that a project of this kind has taken himself and the team  years to fine tune and implement. He continued by explaining the details of the logistical implications for such an installation on a site such as  The Venice Biennale. We would like to congratulate the team for this  journey and vision brought together through collaboration, perseverance and a passion to engage and educate through art. 

The Official Publication

The official catalogue of the Maltese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2022, a  collaborative effort of curators Keith Sciberras and Jeffrey Uslip, artists Arcangelo Sassolino and Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, and composer Brian Schembri. Can be purchased  here.


Commissioners: Arts Council Malta, under the auspices of the Ministry of National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government.

Project Leader on behalf of Arts Council Malta: Dr Romina Delia

Curators: Keith Sciberras (Malta) and Jeffrey Uslip (USA)

Artists: Arcangelo Sassolino (Italy), Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci (Malta), composer Brian Schembri (Malta). 

Project Managers: Nikki Petroni (Malta), Laura Dequal (Italy) and Esther Flurry (USA).

Commissioners: Arts Council Malta, under the auspices of the Ministry of National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government.
Project Leader on behalf of Arts Council Malta: Dr Romina Delia

Malta Team:
Curators: Keith Sciberras (Malta) and Jeffrey Uslip (USA)
Artists: Arcangelo Sassolino (Italy), Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci (Malta), composer Brian Schembri (Malta).
Project Managers: Nikki Petroni (Malta), Laura Dequal (Italy) and Esther Flurry (USA). 

Sources :

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *