Government not to fund biennale any further

Move comes after protests from veteran artists

In the wake of controversy over government funding of the proposed Kochi Muziris Biennale, a massive public art event being planned by the Kochi Biennale Foundation headed by noted artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, the government is learnt to have decided not to make any further fund allocation for the venture.

“In appreciation of the concerns raised by the State's veteran artists, the government has taken a policy decision not to release any further funds for the endeavour,” Sajan Peter, Culture Principal Secretary, told The Hindu.

The Department of Tourism had earlier released Rs. 5 crore for the project and a fund utilisation certificate in respect of work carried out was also submitted. Though the last budget had allowed for a non plan outlay of Rs. 5 crore by the Department of Culture, an understanding had now been reached with the Biennale Foundation that they would have to raise funds for the event themselves.

The government would, however, facilitate the conduct of the biennale by providing its premises including some archaeological sites. Biennales were anyway held under sponsorship, he said.

Last month, scores of veteran artists from the State had petitioned Culture Minister K.C. Joseph expressing their reservation about the government funding the project without consulting them.

Veteran artist C.N. Karunakaran, former chairman of the State Lalitha Kala Akademi, told The Hindu that with the Corporation of Kochi distancing itself from the project, the event was highly unlikely to happen.

“During my term, which ended recently, the Akademi had received communication from the government asking it to facilitate the renovation of the Durbar Hall. This apart, we were not involved in any other activity pertaining to the conduct of the biennale. With the kind of controversy raging over the utilisation of funds and on the credentials of some trustees of the Foundation, it appears that the government had not examined these issues before partnering them in the project. While work for the biennale has been under way for over a year now, one also doubts if it is a change in government that has given rise to the controversy,” he said.

Former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the State Police P.K. Hormis Tharakan, currently a trustee of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, said that it was imperative on the part of the Foundation to come clear on charges of fund misuse.

“I have learnt that the foundation has submitted audited accounts to the government,” he said.

“My honest belief is that a cosmopolitan city like Kochi will be immensely benefitted from the biennale. Way back in 1982, when I was the Cultural Attaché at the Indian Embassy in Rome, artist Balan Nambiar had taken part in the Venetian Biennale, which is considered to be the biggest of them all. Later, when I was a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, I had taken the initiative to provide a platform for showcasing art. I joined the foundation as a trustee last year and have attended a couple of its meetings. While such an event could not be held in an entirely bureaucratic fashion, it would be good to have government oversight on expenditure as artists may not be sure about government proceedings,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 9:53:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/government-not-to-fund-biennale-any-further/article2776965.ece

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