Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 20: The Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) has become a major driver of art and culture in Kerala and India, built enduring infrastructure for culture, triggered economic spin-offs in the tourism sector, spawned jobs, and bolstered Kochi’s international reputation as a vibrant place for cultural pluralism and a destination for new-age arts, says a report by professional services firm KPMG.
The report on the 108-day-long third edition of KMB (December 2016-March 2017) states that the biennale, which began in 2012, has rapidly become one of India’s best-known art and culture brands, given global exposure to local artists, revived lost art forms, lent life and vibrancy to old dilapidated buildings in Kochi through ‘soft urban renewal’, and infused art in public places.
“Through the celebration of international contemporary art, KMB invokes the historic cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi and its legendary predecessor, the ancient seaport of Muziris,” says the 44-page report, which is based on a comprehensive survey of visitors, artists, volunteers, business owners, vendors and local residents.
Chief Minister Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, who formally released the report on Wednesday, has described KMB as “the gateway between Kerala and the world, with diverse expressions of international art and culture moving freely and being brought together under one umbrella.”
Finance Minister Dr TM Thomas Isaac and Tourism Minister Shri Kadakampally Surendran were also present at the function.
As knowledge partners, KPMG in India reviewed the economic contribution of the arts and culture in Kochi along with the impact of investment that the Govt. of Kerala provided in support of arts and cultural facilities during the three months that the event was underway.
Over three editions, KMB has established itself as one of the most important art exhibitions in the world. Aspinwall House, the mother venue, has become synonymous with this Biennale, just as the Giardini and the Arsenale are with the Venice Biennale.
In particular, Biennale 2016, which featured 97 artists from 31 countries, gave an impetus to tourism. ‘KMB 2016 can be termed as a crowd puller with nearly 600,000 visitors arriving for the event, and around 62 per cent of the international tourists were visiting Kerala for the first time,’ the report noted.
Essentially an art event, the biennale’s strong economic underpinning is evident from indices like job creation (working with artists, volunteers), impact on tourism and hospitality, home stays, transport (increase in ridership of airways, railway, ferry and roadways), real estate, vendors and service-based business sectors.
“The biennale has truly become a transformative event, impacting the way people think about art, culture and ideas. By showcasing the best of contemporary art, it has provided a unique content to the city of Kochi that thrives on its historic pluralistic traditions,” said Bose Krishnamachari, President of Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), which organizes the KMB.
The Kochi Biennale Foundation also conducts a number of education and outreach programmes, such as the Students’ Biennale, Art by Children, Master Practice Studios, Residency Programmes, Video Lab, Artists’ Cinema, Let’s Talk and History Now series, and Arts & Medicine.
KBF Secretary Riyas Komu, who is also the Director of Programmes, said the biennale has become a brilliant signpost of the contemporary international art and a robust affirmation of the creativity of local talents. “The KMB today is a pilgrimage site for art. Our stated mandate, as the People’s Biennale, is to take art to the public and to make more art spaces more inclusive,” he added.
The report notes the Kerala government’s consistent support to the biennale through funding and land allocation that has brought local artists back to the state and enhanced exposure to them by opening international doors. For instance, local student-artist C Unnikrishnan’s installation in the 2014 edition of KMB was featured in the 12th Sharjah Biennial in 2015. Artist-filmmaker K M Madhusudhanan was invited for the 2015 Venice Biennale by its curator Okwui Enwezor.
Likewise, Siji Krishnan exhibited her works at the 2017 Moscow Biennale while another local artist, Sosa Joseph, has been invited for the Biennale of Sydney in March 2018.
Apart from the government, a number of individuals and corporates (Lulu Group, South Indian Bank, DLF, BMW and Asian Paints) have aided the event, which is rapidly becoming one of India’s best-known art and culture brands, presenting a number of opportunities for both international and regional corporations. “Getting associated with the KMB can be a win-win situation for both and can open up a wide range of opportunities for the sponsors,” it says.
KPMG in India Chairman and CEO Arun Kumar said, “It is exciting to see how the biennale has rapidly become one of the leading global festivals of contemporary art along the lines of its European counterpart, the Venice Biennale. As a byproduct, it has the potential to advance Kochi and Kerala as a business hub.”
A striking feature of the Biennale 2016 was creation of more installations in the new media category which fuses technology and art. To promote integration of art and technology, the KBF signed an MoU with the Kerala Start-up Mission (KSUM). Google Arts & Culture has been providing a virtual tour of the exhibits of the event to art enthusiasts around the world.
The event also garnered huge support on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Within the first ten weeks of the first edition of KMB, it gained 12.3 million hits on Facebook and has 90,274 followers as on 18 May 2017 on this social media site.
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