Home and Away
Be it hosting the V&A back home in Malta or looking over the Venice Biennale, it’s been a busy month…
Column by Francis Sultana
May was a month of slick European airports and a huge amount of travel which included planes, trains, automobiles and vaparettos.
The month began with a wonderful feature coming out in House & Garden magazine, featuring my life in Malta and my studio in London. It was incredibly flattering for me and all my team to be featured in the 70th Anniversary issue and it marked a month of meetings, receptions and a lot of hard work. I was delighted to be invited to the dinner at the Mandarin Oriental to celebrate the magazine’s anniversary and look forward to many more anniversaries to come.
Earlier this year I became involved with the Arts Council of Malta and agreed to host a reception for them to celebrate the opening of the Malta pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Venice is a city that I have always loved, and during the Biennale, it becomes home to many of the world’s biggest art collectors – with different pavilions presented by different countries and art installations scattered all over the city – it really is a wonderful event, dinner and lunches with the most beautiful settings. The Biennale is an international cultural calling card to show off the creative and cultural aspirations of different countries. It is also a great moment to catch up with the movers and shakers of the world’s art and design world.
Malta currently holds the presidency of the EU and next year Valetta, its capital, is taking over as European Capital of Culture. It’s an amazing time for Malta and her international role in Europe, and I was delighted to support my home country’s first pavilion since 1959. If you are in Venice over the next few months, do take a moment to visit the biennale, which runs until 26 November. The curators of the Malta pavilion, Bettina Hutschek and Raphael Vella, have created a fabulous exhibition, based on the concept of Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters, which features contemporary work and historical artefacts of Malta which looks at the cultural identity of Malta.
The reception was co-hosted with my dear friend Nori Vaccari Starck in her stunning apartment that overlooks the Grand Canal. The champagne and canapés flowed and the great and the good of Venice came to wish everyone involved in the Malta pavilion good luck. It was a wonderful evening.
I did get the chance to look around Venice for a few days, thank goodness as I was worried I would spend most of my time with the plans for the reception. One of the key themes of Venice was monumentality. My favourite work had to be the Argentinian pavilion with the enormous horse – entitled Horse Problem – by Claudia Fontes. The Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn referenced Venice’s fight against global warming and rising sea levels in his installation called Support with a pair of huge white hands, seeming to hold up the walls of the Ca’Sagredo Palace. Phyllida Barlow for the British pavilion was also very impressive with her huge sculpture, Folly, which spilled out of the space and continued the sense of scale that seemed to be everywhere.
Jumping on a plane, I returned to London for a few days to see clients and look over some of the homes for which we are about to finish the interiors and then it was back to Heathrow and a flight over to Malta where I was hosting a dinner for the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The new Director of the V&A, the former MP Tristram Hunt was full of enthusiasm for Malta. My house, a palazzo in Valetta, is close to completion after almost 10 years of refurbishment. It has been a labour of love, and I am looking forward to shooting it for a major international design magazine next month. However, all focus for the evening was on my Caravaggio inspired table setting and the view from the roof terrace across the magical city of Valetta. All our guests from the V&A seemed incredibly impressed by the island and everyone is getting incredibly excited about what we have planned for next year. I for one cannot wait, and I am lucky to have a ring-side seat as Britain’s former naval outpost takes her turn at the centre of Europe.