KOCHI: The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is slated to begin in three weeks. Strangely, it has very little funds to run the show. As the government support is yet to fully come in, it is a race against time and resources.
“We are facing a huge financial crisis. The event will be run with the funds that we could pull in till now, but it will be scaled down,” said Biennale Foundation treasurer Bony Thomas. “The number of artists will remain 93. We will cut down events like seminars and cultural programmes to one-fourth of its original schedule,” he said.
Curator Jithish Kallat has decided to forego his professional fees. The bankruptcy of the state government is cited as one of the main reasons for the crisis.
The Rs 9-crore state support was the backbone of the previous Biennale. This time, however, it was more promises than funds that came from the government.
“The last Biennale, which gave a boost to the tourism and business sectors in Kochi, won laurels from the Centre for the Tourism Ministry from the Centre. The government had given its full support in the initial stages. It even made a budgetary allocation of Rs 2 crore, a first in Kerala history,” said Bony Thomas.
“We charted this year’s event with a Rs 26-crore budget. Apart from the Rs 2-crore offer from the Finance Minister, the Tourism Minister offered Rs 1 crore. However, we received only Rs 1 crore from the government as of now. We have been told the remaining funds will come soon,” he said.
“The government is passing through a financially difficult phase. Not that we don’t want to help, but our hands are tied,” Cultural Affairs Minister K C Joseph said.
Not many NRKs have come forward to lend a helping hand, except a few exceptions like UAE-based businessman T V Narayanan Kutty who gave Rs 1 crore.
Biennale 2012 is said to have ended with huge financial debts. Many are yet to be cleared. Some artists, like Vivan Sundaram who was to have been paid Rs 45 lakh, have foregone their 2012 commission. The Foundation has also begun an online crowdfunding drive, a move which they admit was initiated too late, to raise Rs 15 crore within 90 days.
To say that the Foundation members are struggling to raise funds will be an understatement.
“Organisationally, we are stronger since the last Biennale. We are trying our best to raise funds and want the public to support us,” said Foundation trustee member Hormis Tharakan.