Biennale comes to India through Kochi – Muziris

Given below is a brief history and details of Biennale, a festival organized once in two years. Artists from different countries assemble in the selected place and create and exhibit their artistic product. Several art forms like drawing, painting, sculpture, installations, videos, cinemas and such other art forms are included. Parallel to this entertainment programmes are also organized in different stages.


Biennale is an Art Festival organized once in two years. Artists from different parts of the world assemble together in a particular place to create and present their art forms. The Italian word 'Biennale' stand for 'organized once in two years'. Biennale is more than a hundred years old. The Venice Biennale of 1885 is considered as the oldest. The creations and the festival are having connections with issues such as nature, economic system, tourism, administrative setup, European nationality and the like.

The 'Biennale culture' got developed as a festivity of economic and cultural organ of the development and spread of Euro-centred modernism. This became an aristocratic festival and necessitated a good capital. Slowly the trend changed due to criticisms within Europe itself. The Eurocentric nature also slowly changed when these art festivals started to be organized at other centres in different countries. Naturally issues related to the particular place and country started to be included as themes in the art forms.

Biennale was introduced in certain places with more gaps between one season and the other. Thus Triennale and Quinquennale also came into being. In these the festivals are organized once in three years and once in five years respectively. Based on the contents of the festival it used to be known as Documento, Manifesto, etc. Biennale became a venue for the get together of not only artists but also critics, academicians, curators, intellectuals and such others who are active in cultural field and could produce new ideas and contribute to the improvement of art forms.

Contents of Biennale

Drawing and painting are the major art forms generally taken up here, however equal importance is given to several other art forms such as sculpture, installation, cinema, dance and music programmes. The main attraction of this biennale is not that it presents all the above art forms, but through them the artists conduct various experiments and introduce novel approaches tried in other countries.

Installations based on different themes are major attractions in this. Pictures, sculptures, videos, etc. are suitably mixed in order to prepare an installation. The preparation of these installations are done by the artists on the spot, staying days together in the camp. Such creative works are generally not for sale, but for seeing and studying. Actually, most of the creations at a biennale are not made with a commercial approach. Very often discussions, classes, seminars, etc. are organized a s part of the festival.

Kochi – Muziris Biennale

Kochi is entering the map of Biennale cities. Major Biennale cities include Venice (1885), Sao polo (1951), Tokyo (1952), Sydney (1973), Leon (1984), Havana (1984), Istanbul (1987), The dark art Biennale of Contemporary African Art (1992), Sharjah (1993), Gyanchu (1995), European Manifesta (1996), Berlin (1998), Moscow (2003) and now Kochi (2012) (the year in brackets indicate the beginning year of respective biennale). In 1968 at Delhi a Triennale was started.

In the Kochi biennale 23 nations are participating through 84 world famous artists. Since the hosting place is Kochi 22 Malayali artists are there out of 44 Indian artists participating. Historically important Fort Kochi has several ancient structures and locations suited to be platforms for presenting Biennale art festival. Aspinwall House, Princess street, Pepper House, V.O.C. Gate, Bastian Bungalow, Parade Ground, Cochin Club, David Hall, Mattanchery Bazaar Road, Ware house, Jews Synagogue, Kasi Art Gallery, Moidu Heritage and Durbar Hall are some of the selected stages for the conduct of several art forms.

Connected with this various cultural programmes are planned and will be conducted in different parts of Kochi city. As per the historical evidences Muziris, an old port town of Kerala attracted the first foreign traders to this land of spices. This port was on the north of Kochi somewhere near the present Kodungallur. Because of the historical value of both Muziris and Kochi this Biennale starting on the magic date 12.12.'12 is named as Kochi – Muziris Biennale.


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