Malta’s Ambassador of Culture FRANCIS SULTANA shares his second monthly arts and culture column in collaboration with Times of Malta, in which he presents a set of must-see local and international events he encourages readers to explore.
Over the past few weeks, we have all had to confront the issue of the climate crisis. As (most of) the world’s leaders arrived in Glasgow for COP26, people at last seem to be waking up to the enormity of the crisis ahead of us.
For designers, we must redefine how we can build sustainability and longevity into our work. I really believe that the era of the throwaway culture will soon be over (thank goodness!) and we must all learn how to re-purpose, recycle and make things last, just like our parents and grandparents did before us.
Ambassador of Culture Francis Sultana
The Design Museum in London has curated a show entitled Waste Age: What Can We Do? which features works that discuss the issue of waste and how we can achieve a sustainable future.
Visitors are confronted with the epic scale of our throwaway habits and how our first world consumption leaves a trail all over the rest of the globe, which is not really that surprising when one considers that 80 per cent of products are thrown away in their first six months of life. What an appalling situation!
Although the picture is bleak, the show also offers positive solutions. Sustainable fashion materials developed by labels like Stella McCartney and Adidas are shown with furniture brands such as Snøhetta who are repurposing discarded fishing nets. There is an insight into how natural materials such as coconut, algae and corn husks can be used in clothing, products and packaging.
Installation view showing works by David Hammons in the exhibition Ouverture (2021) at the Pinault Collection, Paris.
Some might argue that design has caused many of the issues within this show, as consumers are urged to buy bigger, brighter and better versions of the things they already own. However, here at least, the next generation is looking at how design can make amends and help us all to fight the cause. The exhibition closes on February 20, 2022.
The idea of enduring style and craftsmanship, that our possessions should be kept and cherished, rather than thrown away, is something that stands at the very heart of the work of Russian goldsmith Carl Fabergé. The relationship between the UK and Russia has always been strong, despite the current political climate. It was therefore not surprising that in 1903 Fabergé chose London as his only branch outside of Russia. London was then, as it is now, the financial capital of the world and a luxury retail destination which could draw a wealthy and international crowd.
From British royalty to Indian maharajas, American millionaires to global socialites, Fabergé then, as now, stood for exquisite glamour and romance and a piece by Fabergé was the ultimate status symbol.
Running until May 2022 at the V&A, Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution is the first major UK exhibition devoted to Fabergé and shines a light on the opulence of his creations.
Three of his legendary Imperial Easter Eggs will go on display for the first time in the UK as part of the exhibition’s dramatic finale, which showcases an incredible 200 objects. The fate of Fabergé is reflective of the dramatic shift for Russia at the turn of the last century from the Great War to the Russian Revolution.
The Alexander Palace Egg Fabergé by Chief Workmaster Henrik Wigstrom (1908) currently on display as part of the V&A Museum’s Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution exhibition. Photo: Moscow Kremlin Museums
The Moscow Kremlin Egg, the largest of the Imperial eggs, and the Alexander Palace Egg, featuring watercolour portraits of the children of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, are two of the most stunning pieces in the show. The Tercentenary Egg, designed to celebrate 300 years of the Romanov dynasty, was sadly created just a few years before the dynasty finally crumbled.
However, the ongoing allure for these exquisite objects remains as strong as ever, and with the fall of communism the demand for Fabergé pieces has grown even stronger both at home and abroad, with the master craftsman’s designs continuing to inspire, captivate and delight audiences the world.
To Paris, a city that has always claimed a place close to my heart. Last month, I was very excited to go and see the new Pinault Collection. It’s not very often that a new museum opens in the very heart of one of our great European cities.
The Pinault Collection at the Bourse de Commence is a place of beauty. Restored and reimagined by collector François Pinault and architect Tadao Ando, the Pinault Collection is a stunning new space for a celebration of the best of international contemporary art, sculpture, photography, installation, sound and performance. The opening exhibition, Overture, offers a wonderful insight into a spectacular private collection featuring works from Urs Fischer, David Hammons, Rudolph Stingel, Pierre Huyghe and Richard Prince, that has been amassed by François Pinault over 40 years. The Moscow Kremlin Egg Fabergé in gold silver onyx enamel (1906) currently on display as part of the V&A Museum’s Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution exhibition. Photo: Moscow Kremlin Museums
As a board member of MICAS, Malta’s new space for contemporary art and design, I have some understanding of the enormity of the project undertaken by Pinault and his team.
We hope that MICAS can follow the agenda set by contemporary museums such as the Pinault Collection in Venice and now in Paris and enable MICAS to also make its mark for Malta, within the contemporary international art scene.
In the words of François Pinault: “art teaches us humility. It teaches us that the beauty of the world – with its darkness, too – is unbounded and that we have everything to gain by accepting the world rather than trying to dominate it.” Finally, I would like to send my congratulations to artistic director Paolo Mangiola and the team at ŻfinMalta on their current show Weaving Chaos which closes tonight.
The show created by international choreographer Tânia Carvalho plays homage to Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey, which is especially resonant for us in Malta and Gozo, our very own island of Ogygia!
Weaving Chaos by international choreographer Tânia Carvalho. Photo: Margarida Dias
The work has been shown all over Europe to huge critical acclaim and I am sure that audiences in Malta will have been completely enthralled by Carvalho’s unique and arresting vision.