For art’s sake / Lily Agius Gallery

How did your gallery come about?

Having a gallery of my own has always been a dream of mine. I still can’t quite believe that I have one, but I guess that is because I am still working on putting it together. It’s a path that I have firmly stuck my heels into, but it is also a way of life that has found me. The overwhelming urge to be surrounded by creativity is a natural phenomenon and one that I am put under the spell of, but ultimately, inspirational and supporting artists, friends, family, clients, and patrons have made this all possible for me.

Do you plan to have only local art or will you also have pieces from foreign artists?

I can never think just locally. I was brought up in London until I was 21. I have family and friends living in many countries, I enjoy travelling and I get pleasure from involving people in my work – that means I couldn’t keep it just local if I tried. I will continue bringing international art to the Maltese and I aim to promote Maltese art abroad too. I will represent both Maltese and international art and marry the two.

What experience have you had in representing artists?

I organised my first exhibition in 2004 for British photographic artist Charles Roff with an inspiring friend of mine from London, David Crewe-Read, who has a gallery there and introduced me to him. I was in my penultimate year at university so the idea was put on hold until September 2007 when I decided to exhibit his latest work at Il Gatto Pardo Bistro & Gallery in Mdina. I had been in sales and promotions at The Malta Independent for two years by then, since graduating, and also the editor of manic! magazine since February, so I put all of my experience together and worked with a new buzzing energy which allowed me to juggle everything at the same time. After this I was totally addicted! I have only been able to manage an annual exhibition for a foreign artist, but it became what I can now call a growing hobby, and I set up an online gallery to exhibit works of art for sale in the meantime.

The website (exposedart.com) really picked up with hundreds of hits a month, and when I found some more time I organised a highly successful exhibition for Ben Maile from the UK (at Le Meridien Hotel & Spa) in May 2008, followed by Pat Kurs from New York in September 2009 (at The Palace Hotel); and due to popular demand I exhibited the latest works by Ben Maile in November 2010 at Palazzo Parisio, Naxxar.

How do you choose the artists whose work you exhibit?

I have discovered artists on my travels, at galleries, while flicking through magazines and online. They have also been introduced to me by family and friends. I appreciate all types of works of art but I particularly enjoy the reality of photography – however, it has proved to be hard to sell in Malta. This is something to tackle, but I am very pleased with the response of the public to Ben Maile. He boasts of an elaborate collection and exhibition list but he is also a favourite to some for his style alone. Some clients won’t buy anyone else. So, in light of all this, I choose art that I would have on my own wall at home and also that does sell. Overall I aim to sell the best of what is available and keep up the standard, while providing art for my clients, who, ultimately, will keep the gallery open. A good relationship with the artists is also essential for the gallery’s success.

How important do you consider location when it comes to opening an art gallery?

Location plays an important role in your business and can dictate your clientele, but you can have a failing business in a core area or a highly profitable business in a more challenging location – ultimately it really does depend on your abilities and what you have to offer.

Will the gallery focus on a specific era, style or medium?

I want the gallery to evolve with time so I will not formulate it as such right away. I will only aim to represent the best art and crafts around based on my own personal taste and what I think I should present to the public, so the works can be from any era, style or
medium.

Do you think that there has been an increase in appreciation for contemporary art in Malta in these last few years?

The history of art in Malta reveals how it has been held back, but since Malta is such a small island what it has achieved and does have to offer today can be appreciated and has excelled. We have an abundance of artists to be proud of, such a Edward Caruana Dingli, Antonio Sciortino, Vincent Apap, Esprit Barthet… but we focus on them far too much to shape our current Maltese identity which can be so much more enriched if we also focus on contemporary artists too. This will encourage development and innovation. We can also be proud of original Maltese art groups such as Start and passionate art leaders like Mark Mangion who have offered some important shows and a fight for contemporary art – but the battle against safe art has proven to be hard to conquer. Two successful galleries close by, Christine X Gallery and Opus 64, also reveal the demand for contemporary art and offer art and events personal to them. There is a growing number of Maltese who want to be on a par with other leading cosmopolitan capitals, which is, no doubt, helped by up and coming architects, leaders and thinkers, and I hope that more contemporary art galleries, large-scale exhibitions, and artistic events follow suit in this wake.

The Malta College of Arts are offering more courses and producing higher standards of work by young artists which is very exciting to see and most artists I meet today do look to art centres around the world for inspiration and have an interest in visiting exhibitions when abroad. We can never be bored of Baroque art and architecture but we need to embrace the contemporary, with style.

Are you an artist?

Drawing and designing was always an extension of me when I was younger. My great aunts on both sides of my mother’s family were artists by profession and have always inspired me – I wake up to their art every day. I still keep sketch books, pencils, acrylics, pastels and charcoal on my bookshelf for the day that I will use them for more than fifteen minutes, but in recent years, editing a magazine, doing up my house from a derelict state, and organising exhibitions have been my creative outlet and have kept me very busy. It is important to understand the material and medium used for an artwork to fully understand and appreciate the complexity of an artist, so for me to attend more art classes and make time to create artwork of my own is the plan for when things calm down.

What exhibitions do you have lined up?

I have a variety of exhibitions and events planned for this year. You will just have to keep an eye out for what’s in store for you! Lily Agius Gallery (previously run under the name Exposed Art by Lily Agius) is located at 54 Cathedral Street, Sliema, offering Maltese and international art, design and events. The space is also available to rent for corporate events providing a PA system and refreshments on request. The gallery is supported by Dr Joanna Delia of TheSmartSkinClinic, Peter Cutajar of Light Design Solutions Ltd, Pierre Fava of Chemimart Ltd, David Xuereb of Gallery Last Touch, and Bank of Valletta.

For more information call
Lily Agius on 2099 2488 or 9929 2488. Main photo: Jose Hair, Sliema (2133 2781), Nails by Janice, Iklin (9926 4271), Make-up by Kirstin Holland (9927 1103). Artworks behind Lily by: John Paul Azzopardi, Elisa Von Brockdorff, Ben Maile, Pat Sanderson, Charles Roff, Debbie Caruana Dingli, Gabriel Caruana, David Xuereb, Tonio Mallia, George Micallef Eynaud, Kenneth Zammit Tabona, Pat Kurs, Romina Delia, and Owen Ward.

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