Government’s decision to grant Rs.4 crore to the cash-strapped foundation is up for scrutiny before the High Court, but State is lax in defending its decision

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation now runs the risk of being left out in the cold by the government. The government’s decision to grant Rs.4 crore to the Biennale Foundation is up for scrutiny before the High Court of Kerala with a public interest litigation questioning the move. Yet, when the case was heard in court on Monday, the government was not represented by the Advocate-General, who advises the government on legal matters.

The critics of the three-month-long Kochi-Muziris Biennale had raised questions about government funding for the arts. Even after the conclusion of the event that drew close to four lakh visitors to its many venues in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam and received rave reviews from artists and art critics from across the world, the question remains: should art be funded by the government.

The State’s foremost cultural icons believe that the government should have done more.

“The government should support art much more,” said filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. “It is very clear that art is the last priority of the government during planning and budgeting. The government is spending a lot of money on flight services that do not have customers. Why can’t it spend money on art then? Culture should be given high priority,” he said.

Tourist footfalls to Kochi and Fort Kochi had increased manifold during the biennale. Local hotels and restaurants also recorded an increase in their revenue during the period. A few months after the event was talked about in global art circles, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale also entered the academic art discourse in the country. The Jawaharlal Nehru University’s entrance examination for its M.A. course on Art and Aesthetics held last week had a question on India’s first biennale.

“The event was the first of its kind in the country. It needs to become a regular event and it should have been funded and upheld by the government,” said poet and critic K. Satchidanandan.

The government had sanctioned Rs.4 crore to the Biennale Foundation after forming a committee to look into its affairs. The committee, comprising Additional Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary and Tourism Secretary, had recommended the cancellation of the Vigilance probe into the biennale after examining its accounts. However, the State seemed reluctant to defend its own decision in court.

“What was promised to the biennale was itself very little. That speaks a lot about the kind of government we have. There is a great reluctance to invest in culture. That is either because of the government’s illiteracy or indifference to art,” said Mr. Satchidanandan.

More In: Kochi | Kerala | National