India's first biennale in Kochi will provide artists a platform

India's first biennale in Kochi will provide artists a platform

The Kochi showcase is India's first-ever biennale modelled on the Istanbul and Havana biennales and will be distinctly different from India Art Summit which is also a trade platform, the organisers said.

It will be held every two years. The Kochi-Muziris Foundation will be hosting a stakeholders event in Venice in June to promote the Kochi Biennale.

According to the organisers, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will fill "a gap by giving artists from India and Asia a platform to exhibit their work".

"It is the need of the hour for the Indian art scene with artists now being recognised and
Asia being looked at as a region of artistic importance. The biennale will position itself as a window to resonate the need for a platform that encourages such discourse towards appreciating international and national art practices," co-artistic director and co-curator of Biennale Krishnamachari Bose, a leading Indian contemporary artist and curator of repute, told IANS in an email interview.

He said the biennale will translate "into a unique connector wherein current and future generations will experience a vital social force that enhances and illuminates contemporary living and social cohesiveness towards a new, solid cosmopolitan art world".

"The Indian art scene has changed dramatically post-Independence and even more so in the last few years. But there is an immense need of awareness within the country towards art and its practices. We are oscillating between the extremes of art markets which are warming up towards Indian art post- liberalisation  and on the other extreme, there is a certain naivete towards the understanding of contemporary arts and its various practices here in India," the 47-year-old artist and curator said.

The Biennale will be jointly curated by Bose and cutting-edge contemporary artist Riyas Komu, both natives of Kerala.

According to Riyas Komu, "the biennale was conceived in late spring of 2010". Bose  and Riyas Komu were approached by the department of cultural affairs, government of Kerala, to "initiate a large-scale festival of contemporary visual arts in the state".

"Following the creation of a non-profit organisation and commitment from leading lights of the Indian cultural establishment, the Kochi-Muziriz Biennale was established".

To the 1971-born Komu, who left the shores of Kerala several years ago to seek out his fortune in Mumbai, Kochi fit the bill as a destination because "in recent years Kerala has been home to many international festivals on literature and theatre, and the performing arts".

"With the preponderance of a well- documented history, Kochi will provide the necessary backdrop for the Biennale and, in turn, the Biennale, with its agenda of showcasing the best of international and national contemporary visual arts, will automatically position Kochi as an art-heritage destination. This will also foster and precipitate the development of Indian contemporary art across various disciplines," Komu said.

The exhibition will be held every two years in selected venues and public sites in Kerala, he said. "For example, Fort Kochi, the Mattanchery warehouses, spice godowns and historic spaces across Kochi-Muziris region.

"As a part of the project with the Muziris Heritage Foundation, the Biennale has also undertaken the renovation of local Durbar Hall by a team of renowned architects and conservation experts," Komu said.

The Biennale was anticipating more public and private sponsorship, corporate and individual involvement in creating a better infrastructure for the Biennale and Indian Arts as well in the future, the artistic directors said.

According to the executive officer of the Biennale, Shwetal Patel, a London-based culture activist and filmmaker, "there is no better way than having our own Biennale, with a raft of international and national artists, institutions, curators, critics and art-loving corporations on a single platform to celebrate national and  international and art".