Mario Finlayson National Art Gallery

Mario Finlayson National Art Gallery

Opening Times:  Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm, Free Entrance.

Address:  City Hall, John Mackintosh Square.

The Calpe Artists' Society was formed in 1954 and its aspiration was always to set up a Gibraltar National Art Gallery to exhibit and celebrate the work of highly talented local artists. The current Government of Gibraltar made a commitment in their first election manifesto to make this a reality. The Gallery was inaugurated in June 2015, with exhibition rooms dedicated to four deceased Gibraltarian artists who are considered the most renowned and prolific: Gustavo Bacarisas, Jacobo Azagury, Leni Mifsud, and Rudesindo Mannia.

Works by Mario Finlayson are also featured in the Gallery. At the time he was the only living artist represented. Mario Finlayson BEM had long been a staunch campaigner in the quest of a National Art Gallery in Gibraltar. Sadly, Mario passed away in January 2020. 

The announcement to name the National Gallery in his honour was made prior to the opening of the venue by the Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP. This coincided with the launch of an exhibition, produced by GCS in January 2015, dedicated to the artistic life and works of Mario. Mr Picardo explained that it was only fitting to have the gallery named after Mr Finlayson as his work has spanned many artistic generations both personally and by inspiring and teaching a new generation of aspiring artists. 

The Gallery is housed in the centrally located City Hall, a venue chosen due to its historical significance, a building of great grandeur and beauty. The previous occupiers of the building, The Housing Department, moved to another location, and a refurbishment programme was carried out on the ground floor to accommodate the art gallery. The works to the building continue and further rooms will hopefully be open to the public in the near future.

City Hall History

The building was originally built as a private mansion by Aaron Cardozo in 1819. He was a prosperous merchant of Jewish Portuguese descent who had settled in Gibraltar, and the building became his private home. It was the grandest private mansion ever seen in Gibraltar, with the three-storey house dominating John Mackintosh Square.

The site had previously been the old hospital and chapel of La Santa Misericordia (English: The Holy Mercy), and later it had been a prison. As a non-Protestant, Cardozo was not legally allowed to own property in Gibraltar. However, as he had been a close friend of Lord Nelson and had supplied his fleet, he was eventually granted a site to build a house in the Alameda on the condition that it be "an ornament" to the square. Its cost was about £40,000.

After his death in 1834, the mansion was leased to John Ansaldo as a hotel, the Club House Hotel. It was bought in 1874 by Pablo Antonio Larios. He was a Gibraltarian-born wealthy businessman and banker, and a member of the Spanish Larios family. The family completely refurbished the building.

His son Pablo Larios, Marquis of Marzales (Master of the Royal Calpe Hunt for 45 years), sold the building to the Gibraltar colonial authorities in 1922, the intention being to turn it into a post office. However, it eventually became the seat of the newly formed Gibraltar City Council. 

In 1926 the Gibraltar telephone service was operated by the City Council, and an automatic exchange serving the territory was installed in the then top floor of the building. The building was later extended to include a new storey and a new body to the North, modifying its original symmetry. Today, this historic building houses the Mayor's Parlour and the National Art Gallery.