The last edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) was fraught with an existential crisis, when an accusation of sexual harassment was raised against Riyas Komu, one of the founders of the biennale. The charges were not officially brought out, but posted on an anonymous Instagram handle. Komu rightly and immediately stepped down from all the managerial positions of the KMB. The demons of sexual harassment charges have now been laid to rest.
In a development unrelated to the Biennale, Subodh Gupta, the superstar of Indian contemporary art field, also called the ‘Damien Hirst of Delhi’, has initiated defamation proceedings this week against the same Instagram handle that had brought out sexual harassment charges against him (along with Komu).
Despite the presence of Guerrilla Girls, a feminist art collective that fights gender inequality in the art world, and a feminist curator in Anita Dubey, the Kochi Muziris Biennale in its last edition failed to invoke the erstwhile matrilineal spirit of the locale, or succeed in exposing the rotten patriarchal power culture at the centre of the contemporary art world. During the showpiece presentation by Guerilla Girls, a noted art critic and writer from Goa boldly stood up and spoke on the gender hierarchy and power relationships prevalent in the biennale and received support of the audience, most of whom stood with her.