Photo: The Cochin Club
By Shevlin Sebastian
At a get-together, organised on the eve of the Kochi Biennale, at the Cochin Club, at Fort Kochi, there is a vibrant energy floating around in the hall. There are artists like Ernesto Neto, of Brazil, in a white T-shirt and shorts, and the lean and tough Guiseppe Stampone, with long, thin strands of hair under his chain, and a bead necklace around his neck.
And there is art lover Vinod Gangotra, from the UK, wearing bright blue trousers and a white T-shirt. “Be colourful is my motto,” he says. And there is Mahlet Ogbe from Asmara, Eritrea in Africa. Wearing a white shirt and a colourful skirt, she says, “This is my first visit to India, and it is simply magical. I felt an air of lightness the moment I landed. The people are so sweet.”
And in the middle of the gathering, one man stood out: Dr. Thomas Girst, Head of Cultural Engagement, BMW Group. He was wearing a striking blue suit, with a multi-coloured tie, and shining black shoes. “I look like a sponsor, don't I?” says Thomas, with a smile. “I am excited by the Kochi Biennale. It is going to change the art scene in India.”
Meanwhile, Paul Greenaway, the director of a gallery in Adelaide, Australia, hugs Riyas Komu, Secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, and says, “I liked your speech.”
In his welcome remarks, to the artists, collectors, trustees, media professionals, sponsors and guests present, Riyaz had said, “This project has come up against all odds. I have to salute all the artists who are taking part.”
Adds Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, “This is not Kochi's Biennale, but India's.” He receives a round of applause for that.
Later, on the pier at Aspinwall House, there is journalist Rachel Spence of London taking in the afternoon sun. “There is so much of energy and enthusiasm all around,” she says. “I know there have been a lot of challenges. I spoke to a lot of people today, and they told me that the best aspect of this event is that it is run by artists.”
Kerala should be proud that such a wonderful festival of art is taking place on its soil.
(A shorter version appeared in The New Indian Express, Kochi)