One Month in, close to 2 lakh visitors to KMB 2016

Nearly two lakh visitors have walked in through the gates at the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) since curtains went up on South Asia’s biggest celebration of contemporary art a month ago on 12/12/16. 

Kochi, Jan 12: Nearly two lakh visitors have walked in through the gates at the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) since curtains went up on South Asia’s biggest celebration of contemporary art a month ago on 12/12/16.

With more than two months to go till the Biennale closes on March 29, the strong turnout far exceeds those witnessed at this juncture in the 2012 and 2014 editions. Further, it suggests total attendance will compare favourably to the numbers from previous editions. Over its runs in 2012 and 2014, the KMB received about four lakh and five lakh visitors respectively.

“The ‘People’s Biennale’ is living up to its reputation. Its popularity reflects the positive impact the event has had on not only art and culture in the state, but also the economy and tourism sector. The Biennale has become an important gateway between Kerala and the world,” said Minister for Tourism Shri Kadakampally Surendran.

The figure takes into account both ticketed and non-ticketed entries to the 12 Biennale venues as also the crowds that have turned up for an ongoing series of special offerings, including seminars, film screenings, music and dance performances.

Throngs outside the venues, Aspinwall House in particular, have been a regular sight over the past month – especially following the implementation of a free entry to the Biennale policy on Mondays. The two Mondays, December 26 and January 2, during the year-end holiday period in December registered record one-day turnouts of 20,000 and 25,000 visitors respectively.

Schools and other educational institutions have also made field trips to KMB 2016 from across India. The Biennale has also received visits from a number of notable personalities both from India and around the world, including prominent representatives from the art fraternity.

“International artists, gallerists and curators of biennales and art fairs from around the world have visited the Biennale and have remarked that the scale and participation of this edition has been noticeably more than previous editions. The art world is talking about our Biennale,” said KMB co-founder Bose Krishnamachari.

KMB 2016 curator Sudarshan Shetty said, “There has been goodwill and support across the board. The artworks have got some great reviews and the public’s reception has been really encouraging. I’m looking forward to see more practices evolve and unfold during the remainder of the Biennale.”

While much of the buzz has been about the more than 100 artworks by 97 artists, there has been a noticeable livening-up of the businesses and communities near the venues – spread across Fort Kochi and Mattancherry as well as Ernakulam and Kottapuram Fort in Kodungallur.

During their visits to the Biennale, Principal Secretary (Tourism) Dr Venu and Kerala Tourism Director Mr U.V. Jose had noted the event’s positive impact on the tourism sector.  

Solar Cafe, one of the most sought-after eateries near Pepper House, has seen a 40 per cent increase in business. “We have been seeing a heavy rush during the lunch time particularly from foreign tourists who are in town for the Biennale,” said Umer Farook, the owner.

The Kudumbasree stall near Aspinwall House finds no shortage of takers at lunch either, said Vironi. “Sales had increased during this Biennale season as compared to the previous year, especially t 2 pm,” she said.

Arshad, who plies his auto in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, said the number of passengers who he had been ferrying across the town has increased since the Biennale got underway.

Most home stay owners reported being sold out months in advance noting that there are more tourists from North India compared to last year. “There are much more walk-in tourists this year after the Biennale started,” said Gijin, who works in the Maritime home stay in Fort Kochi.

Aamir Sohail, the owner of the popular spice shop Cochin Spices, said he was showing his appreciation for the additional business by offering discount rates of 10-15 per cent to Biennale artists and participants. “It was an artist from Morocco who introduced me to the Biennale in 2012. Since then, I have maintained a good rapport with them,” Sohail added.


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