Providing a global platform to contemporary art in India
Jan 20 2013
It was in May 2010 that two Mumbai-based contemporary artists of Kerala origin, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, were approached by the then culture minister of Kerala, M A Baby, to seriously consider starting an international art project in the state.
Taking a cue from the Venice Biennale, the artists proposed a similar exposition to connect Kochi and the maritime era of the ancient Muzaris port. The proposal was accepted and after considerable effort on the part of the artist duo, the ‘Kochi-Muziris Biennale’ was launched on December 12, 2012.
The biennale is widely considered as the country’s largest (area-wise) contemporary art event and seeks to fill the gap of an international platform for contemporary art in India. Spread across various venues including the Aspinwall House, the Parade Grounds, the Fort Kochi Beach, the Jew Town Godowns, Cochin Club and many more locations in the unique Fort Kochi area.
Curated by co-founders and artists Krishnamachari and Komu, the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale offers a chance of seeing works of around 90 artists, half of whom are Indian and many from Kerala. Most of the better-known Indian contemporary artists are creating works on location.
Subodh Gupta has chosen to use a 60-ft wooden boat filled with old local cooking vessels, furniture and other odds and ends; Vivan Sundaram has created a 40-foot installation on the Muzaris theme, using pottery shards and Atul Dodiya presents an installation of photographs.
But even more than this, we can say that Kochi has been transformed in more ways than one, as dramatic graffiti has changed mouldy walls and houses into backdrops for unique works of art. Using the dark mouldy areas as black, artists have created strange sea creatures running along the walls. In fact, so unique are these efforts that I would not be at all surprised to hear that car drivers are having trouble keeping their eyes on the roads.
As a run-up to the event, in April, the Durbar Hall in Kochi had hosted German modern artist Eberhard Havekost’s exhibition Sightseeing Trip, held in collaboration with the Dresden State Art Collections. The Biennale is on for 3 months and for art lovers it should be an event not to be missed, both for its content and the spirit of enterprise that it demonstrates.
But before I end, here is a bit of news about Vincent Van Gogh among my all-time favourite painters.
In an earlier column, I had written about experts expressing alarm on detecting that Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, had begun to turn brown. A sample of 14 works from the period between 1887 and 1890 were tested to find out what was affecting the oil paint colour, known as chrome yellow.
The reason for this has now been exposed. It has to do with the energy-saving lighting that most museums have adopted over the past few years, as the bright-yellow pigment becomes unstable under LED lights and over a period turns ‘a shade of brownish green’.
Among the other 19th century artists whose works have also been affected are Van Gogh’s fellow expressionists, Gauguin and Cezanne. It has also been said that, “Paintings that have moderate darkening will find this accelerates in the coming years”.
Newer galleries might suffer the most as they were probably been built on energy-saving designs, but it is important that museums and galleries worldwide take heed and make special arrangements for the precious artworks that lie in their care.
(The writer is a winner of many advertising design awards and a painter of repute)