Nearly five lakh people have visited the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) since it got underway three months ago on 12/12/16 – living up to the event’s reputation as the biggest celebration of contemporary art in South Asia.
The figure takes into account both ticketed and non-ticketed entries to the 12 Biennale venues as well as the strong crowds seen at the special programmes – including talks, film screenings, music and dance performances – taking place on the sidelines of the main exhibition.
With the next few weeks featuring a stellar line-up of exciting events and experiences, KMB 2016 is on pace to be the best attended edition of India’s only Biennale yet. Over its runs in 2012 and 2014, the KMB received about four lakh and five lakh visitors respectively.
“I have been a regular at the Biennale, having visited each of the three editions many times. This year, the crowds have been very good whether it’s a weekday or the weekend. Sometimes, I have had to wait for more than half an hour to get in!” said Giridhar Virmani, who works at a tech firm in the city.
The ‘Closing Week’, from March 22-29, figures to be especially busy with encore performances by KMB 2016 participating artists Anamika Haksar, Padmini Chettur and Zuleikha Chaudhuri on the slate. Over the opening week, the shows saw an average of 300 visitors attend daily.
The Biennale’s ‘Free Entry Monday’ policy continues to see strong crowds throng the venues at the start of the workweek. Two Mondays, December 26 and January 2, brought in record one-day turnouts of 20,000 and 25,000 visitors respectively. Attendance on Mondays has been steady even in the post-vacation period – with weekends posting robust figures.
“The ferry service from Ernakulam boat jetty is the fastest and cheapest way to get to Fort Kochi. But you have to be willing to wait in the queue. Although it was less than 30 minutes across the sea, my family and I were waiting for almost an hour for the boat ticket. I think the return trip will be the same. But I have been waiting to see the Biennale for more than four years and did not want to miss my chance,” said Sajan M., a first-time visitor from Alappuzha.
The long waits at the jetty pale in comparison to the waiting-list for accommodation in the Fort Kochi and Mattancherry areas. “We are still getting calls and people keep coming in to ask about rooms for the end of March. I have been working here for over a year, but the last few months are the busiest I have seen the place. It was not like this last year,” said Shubroto, who mans the reception at the White Rose hotel in Fort Kochi.
“This is the Biennale effect,” noted autorickshaw driver M. Abdu, who said he never has to worry about customers in a Biennale year. “Even though Fort Kochi is a pop
ular spot, the tourists start to leave once it gets this hot and humid. It is mainly due to the Biennale that foreigners are staying back now.”
Yilena Hamden agrees. The “amateur artist” from Norway is on her second visit to the area in three years. “I was supposed to only be here for a week during the last Biennale in 2014 and ended up staying back a month. This time, my husband and I have been based in the city since November and we don’t plan to leave till the end of the Biennale,” she said.
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