For the last one week, the inaugural edition of the Kochi Art Week (KAW) was all abuzz in the Indian art world. Conceptualised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation to “activate audiences in the post-pandemic landscape”, this maiden run took place from December 12 to 19 at Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, and is now all slated to be an annual event, having enjoyed an enthusiastic measure of success.
Interestingly, the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale had also kicked off on the same day nine years ago, way back in 2012.
This time round, at least 11 galleries were enrolled to be part of the proceedings, pivoting around the central venue of Pepper House at Fort Kochi. Other places hosting programmes like exhibitions, screenings, talks and affiliate events included Kashi Art Cafe, David Hall, Sistrict Heritage Museum and Malabar House in Fort Kochi; Mandalay Hall, Gallery OED, OED Memoir and Dezika Tribal Art Gallery in Mattancherry; and Kerala Museum and Palette People in the city.
Various activities planned under KAW included talks, heritage walks, guided tours of art venues, curated gallery walk-throughs with artists, film screenings, workshops for children, food trails and virtual events.
While the shows were curated by individual galleries, the Biennale Foundation was offering inputs and handling promotions, media and socials. These exhibits ranged from solo to group endeavours, and even exhibitions of rarer works from collections of participating galleries.
KAW sought to address a range of themes, many inspired by the ongoing pandemic. As per a report by The Hindu, some of the most interesting displays included: “The late Jangarh Singh Shyam, who was among the first Gond artists to use paper and canvas for his paintings, thereby inaugurating what is now known as ‘Jangarh Kalam’, is celebrated in a group show with images of the tribal culture at Dezika Tribal Art gallery in Jew Town.” There was also: “At Kashi Café, 47 black-and-white drawings by Mumbai-based artist Lakshmi Madhavan fascinate with curious use of technology. The small frames grouped together in an entity titled ‘See, Saw, Seen’ are works done when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020.” Further, we saw: “Baroda-based artist Raju Baraiya walks a fine balance between his rural and urban identities, in the context of the current health crisis, in ‘Social Gathering’ at Mandalay Hall in Jew Street. Through works titled ‘Social Gathering’, ‘Social Distance’ and ‘Tradition Is a Fashion’, which address social complexities in society, they also present the struggle against the coronavirus.”
“Art weeks like this are organized in different cities across the world, why not bring it to Kochi as well?” KBF president Bose Krishnamachari had said of KAW.
While KAW concluded on December 19, some shows are also scheduled take place later. The seminars and talks related to the Art Week end this week, while exhibitions at venues run on till January 12, which is a good month more. Meanwhile, the hugely popular Lokame Tharavadu exhibition is still on at Alappuzha, showcasing the works of more than 250 artists.