India’s first art biennale in Kochi

New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS) The Indian art scene has taken yet another global leap with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale — the country’s first official art biennale – to begin Dec 12.

The prophetic date (12.12.12), throwing doomsday predictions to the wind, was announced by the Kochi Biennale Foundation – a private non-profit organisation – here late Saturday. The art gala will continue for three months.

‘The biennale is likely to host 80 artists with nearly 50 percent foreign artists, site-specific works and a sustained education programme in the three months,’ said Michelangelo Bendandi, director of the communications of the biennale.

‘It will be spread across Fort Kochi and Kochi town,’ he added.

The biennale, styled on the Venice biennale, will reclaim several old Jewish, pre-colonial, colonial and native warehouses in the old Fort Kochi area lying in disuse to turn them into modern gallery spaces for display.

It will combine regeneration of old heritage for sustainbale use with art, the organisers said.

The warehouse was used by ancient Jewish traders and native merchants in Kochi and the historical port city of Muziris (modern day Kodangallur) as spice warehouses.

‘The Kochi Biennale Foundation has renovated the 150-year-old Kochi Durbar Hall to a state-of-the art climate controlled international-level gallery with sophisticated lighting,’ said Shwetal A. Patel, executive officer of the Kochi Biennale.

‘In April, the Durbar Hall will host German modern artist Eberhard Havekost’s exhibition ‘Sightseeing Trip’ in collaboration with Dresden State Art Collections. The exhibition will be a test for the gallery space,’ he added.

The biennale is in talks with international and Indian artists including Subodh Gupta, Kiran Subbaiah, Ranbir Kalekar, Shreyas Kale, Rohini Devasher, Surendran Nair, Pakistan’s Bani Abidi, Indonesia’s Fiona Tan, Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, African artist Wangechi Mutu and Brazil’s Ernesto Neto, said its co-curator and co-founder Bose Krishnamachari.

Patel said pioneering performance art researcher Roselee Goldberg is expected to anchor a module on performance art.

The challenge for the organisers of the biennale will be to transport fragile art works to Kochi, Patel said. Kochi is not connected to the rest of the world by air barring a handful of flights to the Middle East, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

‘The Biennale Foundation is working with international transport companies to sort the bottlenecks in transporation,’ Bendandi said.