Visiting dignitaries and art world doyens hail the Biennale as the largest of its kind
AN ESTIMATED two lakh visitors have already visited the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, with several high-profile delegations hailing the initiative as South Asia’s biggest celebration of contemporary art.
Madhuvanti Ghose, Associate Curator of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan, and Islamic Art at The Art Institute of Chicago, heaped praises on the festival, observing large crowds at the main venue of Aspinwall House, making room for families with children — a regular sight over the ongoing series of free-entry Mondays.
“The purpose of art is to educate people, and this is being followed through by the Biennale,” offered Madhuvanti. “The close interaction between artists and the public is very powerful, and contributes to the feeling of engagement.
The ease of access to the art here for the layperson is one of the highlights,” she said. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director General of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, hailed the Biennale for providing young artists and common folk opportunities to view art of an international standard. “The Biennale has set an example for major cities in India,” he said, adding, “I hope we introduce more Biennales in other parts of the country.”
The Biennale’s democratic nature, and the sense of ownership felt by the local community, has garnered special praise by visiting international curators and art directors. Curator Yasufumi Nakamori, who heads the Department of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, said he felt a “connect” between the local audience to the works. This was because the Biennale exhibited strong works, he said.
Adeline Ooi, Asia Director for the Art Basel art fair, said the Biennale was “moving from strength to strength”, in part due to the visible support of the local community. “The sense of solidarity, integration and ownership is humbling. There is so much beauty in the Biennale’s democratic nature. It is great that the entire city is involved. The Biennale is very poetic and very sensitive not just to the art community, but to everyone, regardless of their level of involvement,” said Adeline.
Eminent theatre personality Anuradha Kapur, the former Director of the National School of Drama in New Delhi, spoke of a “widening of perspective and discourse” at KMB 2016. “The Biennale and the conversations it begins produce a new kind of spectator,” said Anuradha. “For what is supposedly a space to house visual art, the inclusion of dance, music and theatre embodies something special,” she added. “It alters the spaces and in so doing, the experience.”
Meanwhile, art school students from across the country continue to throng the Biennale’s workshops. Renowned Malayali writer, KL Mohana Varma, who visited the Biennale with his grandchildren, spoke about the enormous role played by the art showcase in fostering the imagination of children.
“We try to fit them into boxes, but the Biennale is a ground to grow their imagination,” he said. The author suggested making it compulsory for every school to bring students on a two-day tour to the Biennale.