Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A true hero of our times

Bose Krishnamachari, the president of the Kochi Muziris Foundation, talks about the tremendous impact of the three-month long exhibition, which concluded on March 17

By Shevlin Sebastian

Three months ago, Bose Krishnamachari, the president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), had gone to a jewellery shop in Angamaly to buy a gift for a cousin's wedding. He had been a regular, over the years, at the shop. 

At that time, controversy was raging in the media about whether there has been financial skullduggery by the Biennale organisers. And the impact could be seen in the store's employees, who were no longer welcoming. “They looked at me as if I was some sort of a thief,” says Bose. “I felt disappointed but I was not worried. I knew I had done nothing wrong.”

Today, on the eve of the conclusion of the first-ever Biennale in India, Bose and his team – Riyas Komu (KBF Secretary), Boney Thomas (Trustee), and a host of others – have been vindicated. 

“There has been a tremendous acceptance of the Biennale by the people,” says Bose. “I was enriched by the unexpected compliments, excitement, and sharing by ordinary people, as well as the celebrities. Now there is a new word that the people have learnt to say, apart from 'Biennale', and that is called 'installation'.”

The artistic sensibility has been heightened. “The people have started noticing a wire lying on the road, or a piece of grass,” says Bose. “There is a pride, right from the auto-rickshaw driver to the elite, that Kochi is now a Biennale city.”

Indeed, the show has received positive notices all over the world. What has been most remarkable for Westerners is the fact that two artists, Bose and Riyas, had a vision and against the most difficult of odds, established the show. 

“Chris Dercon [Director of the Tate Modern Art Gallery, London], in a public talk, said that in a place like the UAE [United Arab Emirates], the government has been trying to develop their art and culture by spending millions of dollars and here we are, by spending a few crores, we have put up a world-class show,” says Bose.

Perhaps the most stunning statement was by noted cultural impresario, Rajeev Sethi, who has set up so many Festivals of India abroad. “The Biennale has been the nation's biggest cultural event since Independence,” he said.

In all this excitement, of meeting celebrities every day and being in the public eye, Bose has missed out on his family life. “I have been away from home [in Mumbai] for more than two years now,” he says. “My children, Aaryan, 9, and Kannaki, 6, and my wife Radhika yearn for my presence. I feel sad about it but the Biennale has been such a big responsibility.”

Following the conclusion of the Biennale, on March 17, Bose will begin work on the selection of the next curator for the 2014 edition. 

This small and unassuming Malayali, with a charming smile, has made a giant impact in the world of art. 

A true hero of our times! 

(The New Indian Express, state edition)

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