Two months ago art critics at the maiden Kochi Muziris Biennale said it was priceless. But today, we know exactly what the price of this installation is. To be specific, it is $8,00,000 (Rs. 4.40 crore) — the price at which Indian artist Subodh Gupta’s installation featuring a traditional boat was sold in a show held in London, reported London-based Financial Times. Abu Dhabi-based Guggenheim museum has bagged the popular installation.
The installation was moved to the Hauser & Wirth Saville Row Space Gallery in London after being exhibited at the Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi as part of Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
The installation named “What does the vessel contain, that the river does not,” searches for the inner meaning of Sophism and was inspired by the words and philosophy of the renowned 13th century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.
The genesis for the installation occurred to the Delhi-based artist during the course of his boat journey from Fort Kochi to Kottappuram after being invited to Kochi for its maiden biennale.
Mr. Gupta converted the idea into reality with the help of traditional boat makers of Ponjikkara Island in Kochi backwaters. It had a length of 21.35 metres, a width of 3.15 metres and a depth of 1.1 metres.
The boat was shifted from a yard belonging to Johnson of Ponjikkara in Ponnarimangalam to the Aspinwall with the help of boat-making labourers Simon D’silva and friends. The traditional boat-making method was adopted in the making of the installation
The installation, which was completed by arranging everyday items ranging from bed, table, chair, fan, to cycle, pillow, gas cylinders and utensils was considered symbolic of the spices trade linking Kerala history and that of Kochi with Muziris. Among other things it also symbolised the human race’s tendency to migrate.
Though buying and selling was not part of the biennale, the interest and popularity the installations mustered as part of the event help artists to exhibit and sell them in various parts of the world.