Organisers solicit financial support from State; artists begin global campaign

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale — the country’s first — is up and running, thanks to the tenacity and vision of two Indian artists, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, also curators of the show.

But just about a week into the global art carnival featuring over 80 artists from nearly two dozen countries, the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) is cash-strapped, contemplating options like crowd-funding, charging a token fee from biennale patrons, and soliciting further assistance from the government to keep the show going.

“The event has become a crowd-puller and a mammoth success in terms of its appeal for art-lovers, the range of works on display, and the serious discourses it has set off on art and social practices. The government is happy that it rakes in revenue by way of tourism and culture promotion. But the Kochi Biennale Foundation is broke and individual artists, who strived for the event, have incurred huge personal debts. Unless there’s some solid support from the State, I don’t know how we will be able to run the show for three months,” said an organiser.

Badly off, the KBF has decided to charge from visitors an entry fee of Rs.50 per adult and Rs.10 per student. “You need to shell out $30 [over Rs.1,500] to visit the Gwangju Biennale. Other biennales charge even greater fees. We will only be levying about 10 per cent of that, which will also ensure that there’s some respect for the works on display. Ticketing will be done in three days,” Bose Krishnamachari, co-curator of the event, told The Hindu.

While the foundation gets sporadic support from individuals and institutions, it is hoping that the government would come around to back the successful venture. The local chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organisation, an outfit of senior business executives, would discuss ways in which they could extend help, it is learnt.

Artists’ campaign

Concurrently, a group of noted artists led by Vivan Sundaram and art critics Ranjit Hoskote and Geeta Kapur have set off an international campaign of sorts to pressure the Kerala government to release further funds to bail out the indigent biennale. The Biennial Foundation led by Marieke van Hal is also chipping in, soliciting support from around the world — from artists, collectors and galleries.

Ms. Kapur told The Hindu that the whole project got started because the previous government threw its weight behind it.

“Their interest gave impetus to the project, which is ambitious in scale and range, primarily because it is executed by two artists. To top it up, they have been offered extraordinary spaces to conduct the show, a rarity in India. There were quite a few representatives of the government, enthusiastic about what was happening, at the biennale inaugural. Their support cannot only be political and bureaucratic; the response should be practical and financial too. Then the event will become a landmark and there will be adequate support for the next edition as well,” she said.

Works vandalised

On Tuesday night, miscreants vandalised some works of art featured in the event.

A communication from the Biennale said that “mischief-makers desecrated the installation work of South African artist Clifford Charles at the Aspinwall House by pouring colours on it.” The miscreant also painted the word ‘REBEL’ in blue capitals on the work.

A portrait done by Australian artist Daniel Connell on the wall of the Cochin Carnival office in Fort Kochi was also found defaced. A man in green T-shirt and half-pants, who looked like an artist, was spotted spraying paint on Mr. Charles’ work. He fled when onlookers tried to stop him, said a Biennale organiser. Mr. Connell had drawn on the wall near the Cochin Carnival office a portrait of Achu, who runs a nearby teashop. The image was an instant hit. Biennale officials filed a complaint with the police in Fort Kochi.

Meanwhile, Mr. Charles began painting a Royal Enfield motorcycle at Aspinwall House, on Wednesday. Mr. Connell said he would redraw Achu’s portrait in a couple of days.

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