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Kochi Muziris Biennale’s unique art catalogue

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Why the city lends itself to big ticket art

The first edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) opened on a well-thought-out, arty date, December 12, 2012 at 12 pm. In its curated definition it declared the city as the most suitable destination for eclectic, large scale art projections and interventions in the future.

Three editions later we are witnessing the flowering of big ticket art events. Show stoppers from the world of art, big projects centred around art are coming the city’s way and art as investment is gaining currency. The questions asked in 2012 were reasons that made the city a perfect haven for art, and for one to conduct a show of this magnitude.

Was it the fusing together of its scenic charm, its cosmopolitanism garnered from its tryst with colonists, the remnants of its layered history, a slow and steady foundation built by its local artists that laid a fertile ground for nurturing the various versions of art? It definitely was a mix of all these and more, including civic and administrative factors.

In the early 90s the town was truly sleepy, an ingredient that allowed citizens and visitors to dream with open eyes. Its laid back appeal stopped them in their tracks to think, feel and sense. Perhaps it was this that let creative juices flow.

We have come along way from that. 2012 changed all that and more. Kochi’s acclaim from its art ventures is now international. “In a very short period the KMB has got international critique,” said Bose Krishnamachari co-founder KMB, establishing the fact that Kochi is now known globally as a centre of arts.

Art Auction

Riding on its wave came more related events. Kerala saw its first high profile live art auction Art Rises fior Kerala (ARK), in the city. Forty-two works by acclaimed artists such as Anish Kapoor, Amrita Sher-Gil, Dayanita Singh and Manu Parekh, to name a few, went under the hammer.

Kochi Muziris Biennale’s unique art catalogue

“Art is ingrained in the fabric of Kerala, which has nurtured many leading Indian artists as well as the KMB. Saffronart has an enduring relationship with Kochi and the Biennale, and this is the third time that Saffronart is partnering with Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) for an auction, following auctions to raise funds for the KMB in 2015 and 2017. The presence of an art event such as the KMB in Kerala has placed it firmly on the international art calendar, and its success proves that such large-scale art events can be held successfully in the region. Additionally, Kochi has many high net worth individuals and with the exposure to the Biennale, their motivation towards high end art events has increased,” said a Saffronart spokesperson.

Art as investment

Cyril P Jacob, art collector and dealer, of the outfit Palette People believes that the art auction has brought back peoples’ confidence to approach art as investment. With over two decades of experience in the art market through select customers he stresses on the fact that Kerala has a sizeable number of High Net worth Individuals (HNI), especially NRIs, who are now looking at different venues of investment, being disappointed with real estate and the gold market.

Kochi Muziris Biennale’s unique art catalogue

“People don’t know of the opportunity of investing in art in Kerala. NRI remittance is still going up in the banks,” says Jacob adding that the hesitancy in the market is due to the ambiguity on issues of secondary sales. To counter that he plans to offer a buy back proposition to first time investors and newbies unfamiliar with the emerging market.

“There is good scope for mid-level artists here. Art is not like gold to be stored in a bank locker or like immovable real estate, it can be displayed and enjoyed. It has tangible presence and movement.”

The auction per se saw a strong turnout with many persons from across the State attending it. There was competitive bidding for most of the works that resulted in a white glove sale fetching a collection of ₹ 3 crore.

Anish Kapoor’s Untitled, 2018, work, a vivid blue canvas and resin work sold for ₹1.3 crore and two rare drawings by celebrated artist Amrita Sher-Gil – a graphite on paper work from circa 1928 titled Head, and Female Nude painted circa 1930 sold at doubled their higher estimates at ₹24 lakh and ₹ 25 lakh respectively. The money was donated towards the CM’s Distress Relief Fund.

A unique work, Family Box, that will celebrate the winning bidder by Dayanita Singh, sold for ₹22 lakh.

Art Brunch

In another interesting related event an art brunch powered by Mercedes Benz brought the creativity of artist Thota Lakshminarayana to the fore. The Telengana artist painted on the luxury car while the chefs of Kochi Marriott, led by Executive Chef Ravinder Panwar showcased their creativity involving guests into an art driven event, the likes of which the city was experiencing for the first time.

Kochi Muziris Biennale’s unique art catalogue

Fitting in the concept of new age hospitality, Chinnu Jimmy, Sr. Marketing Communications Manager Marriott Hotels says, “I saw great opportunity for the hotel in co-partnering an event of this kind. It was a forum for the hotel to showcase food as art and the activation with the artist on a car was also a unique perspective for art.”

Thota Lakshminarayana enjoyed painting lotus buds and landscape features in water colours on the car and says, “It was a good event; entire India is looking at Kochi for more in art. Artists are coming here and the art scene is getting bigger.” This was his second such outing and he enjoys the idea of recreating his village experiences on to modern canvases like the luxury car in this case.

“Chefs are inherently artistic and creative,” says Chef Panwar whose kitchen team of 60 to 70 created an 18-foot cold pizza that was the canvas for painting. Guests, especially children regaled in painting using edible colours made from beetroot and spinach purée and squid ink.

Panwar has the last word . “I see the people here are different from elsewhere, they treasure their art and culture. My senior chef is a chenda player. Before retiring for the day he plays the chenda daily. It is this artistic cultural intensity of the people here that draws art and big art to Kerala and Kochi.”

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 7:51:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/art-auction-invetsment-and-brunch-kochi-lends-itself-to-big-ticket-art/article26111194.ece

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