Year founded: 2011
Organiser: Kochi Biennale Foundation


Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to invoke the historical cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi, and its mythical predecessor the ancient port Muziris.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale is India’s first ever biennial of international contemporary art and its story is unique to India’s current reality—its political, social and artistic landscape. It began as a government initiative, when the Department of Cultural Affairs of Government of Kerala approached two artists—Riyas Komu and Bose Krishnamachari—to help organize an international platform for art in India. The challenge was proportionate to the ambition of the project. A biennial had never gotten past the conceptual stage in India before. There was no existing infrastructure necessary for an exhibition of this scale—no spaces and no institutional support structures.

With the support of the government, private patrons, and local businesses the Biennale found the spaces and opened them up for art. The Indian art community has been growing rapidly and has been emerging onto the world stage, and the international arts community offered their support in sending art and artists to participate in Kochi. Artists became the spokespersons and activists for the biennale.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale also aimed to reconnect the myth of Muziris with the modern Kochi metropolis where pre-colonial traditions of cultural pluralism continue to flourish. The Biennale has helped inspire a reconsideration of contemporary art in an Indian context. What it means for Indian artists to have space to create temporary, conceptual work, outside the constraints of the market, in India, is the real significance of India’s first Biennale. It also helped dispel the notion that art biennials in India die at the conceptual stage, and never bloom into a full-fledged global event.