Kochi: A visit to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) 2014 is the surprise honeymoon trip that art historian Sandhini Poddar offered to husband William Sargent, co-founder of Oscar-winning graphics studio Framestore.
Poddar, who is adjunct curator dealing with modern and contemporary art at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, was here at the first edition, and wanted to come down to see and “offer support” to KMB’14 curator Jitish Kallat. So, after the first of three wedding ceremonies in Mumbai, Poddar brought Sargent down to Kochi which is hosting the second edition of KMB that concludes on March 29.
“It is a nascent project here and merits much nurture,” says Poddar, whose first curatorial project at the Guggenheim was an Anish Kapoor exhibition. “It is a vital project in India where we do not have enough museums and foundations and spaces for people to come together and discuss contemporary trends.”
While Sargent, who was surprised to be at a biennale in Kochi, managed to see only 73 works, Poddar caught all 100 over their three-day stay in this city. “Jitish has picked up on the intellectual histories by looking at the trade and cosmopolitanism of the area and brought that into the curatorial programme,” says Poddar, who has shifted to London, from her bases in New York and Mumbai.
The couple, who met in London a year-and-half ago, was impressed to see an “enthusiastic local participation” here apart from international visitors.
“It was energising to see that the weekend brought large local audiences, who were being exposed to this art for the first time and were having animated discussions among themselves about what they thought about the art,” says Sargent, whose company worked on the Oscar-nominated ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and last year’s winner ‘Gravity, apart from all the Harry Potter movies.
Sargent, who was on his first trip in India outside of Mumbai, felt that the different venues strewn around Fort Kochi also provided “a sense of being in the community”. “It is unlike a museum, which seems to exclude the region,” he notes. “Here, you have a feeling of discovering. That was an unexpected pleasure.”