Kochi, Dec 12: The Monday holiday saw crowds throng the venues for the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), basking in the festive glow as the largest and most anticipated celebration of contemporary art in South Asia got underway.
With schools closed and admission being free today, several visitors made a family day of it in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, where 10 of the 12 Biennale sites are located. Armed with a route map and the locations for the 97 participating artists, they drove, hitched a ride or hoofed it to the venues – touched up in the signature ‘Biennale White’ colour.
At Aspinwall House, the main venue for the exhibition, KMB 2016 curator Sudarshan Shetty hoisted a Biennale pennant – symbolically handed over by KMB 2014 curator Jitish Kallat – at noon, signaling the event’s ‘Grand Opening’. Former Ministers for Culture Shri M.A. Baby and Shri K.C. Joseph were in attendance as was ex-MLA Dominic Presentation.
KMB co-founders Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas welcomed the public to their Biennale and thanked the event’s patrons, Trustees, sponsors and partners for their commitment to India’s only Biennale. The day began with a discussion about art patronage sponsored by BMW.
One of the event’s biggest sponsors M.A. Yousuf Ali, Founder and Managing Director of Lulu Group, received a guided tour of the venue. There were also private collectors and museum officials among other representatives from the art world.
“I’m happy to be able to attend this year’s Biennale since I was unable to attend the last edition. It was a wonderful, welcoming atmosphere with so many thought-provoking works of art to experience. I especially enjoyed P.K. Sadanandan’s mural,” said Anusya Sreedhar, who made the five hour-drive to the city from Thiruvanthapuram in the morning.
This was a common refrain on Monday alongside a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as visitors ‘discovered’ the works, took selfies with the artists, compared notes with each other or just mused out loud.
Besides being a fun outing, for many the trip was a chance to learn something. For a few first-timers to the Biennale, experiencing the scope and size of the event was itself a revelation
“We had heard about the Biennale but didn’t know something this wonderful existed in Kerala. There are so many interesting perspectives and notions on display here and it was great to then be able to meet with the artists themselves and engage with them in conversation. Spending the day here was a great way to cap our weekend,” said Sebastian Mathew, part of a large group of students from Maharajah’s College.
Lakshmi Pillai and her friends wandered the interiors of Slovenian artist Aleš Šteger’s The Pyramid of Exiled Poets, losing themselves in the immersive experience inside the tomb-like space. “It was quite a profound experience,” she said, soberly.
As the day winded down at Aspinwall, the focus turned to Parade ground where an inauguration ceremony was sandwiched between a ‘chenda melam’ featuring 150 percussionists led by Padma Shri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar and a concert by noted singer Suman Sridhar and The Black Mamba.
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