This year's Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), considered one of Asia's foremost art festivals, has been in the news as much for its exhibits as for the controversies surrounding it. In October 2018, the festival's co-founder Riyas Komu was accused of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in India, following which, Komu resigned from KMB's managerial committee in March 2019. Soon after this, in the last week of March, the KMB management was dogged with claims of non-payment of dues by a local contractor. Now, the festival committee is again mired in a controversy surrounding an auction of all the materials used in the 2018 edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
KMB Foundation had put up a notice on their website on 10 April announcing the "auction (of) the new and used air conditioners, television sets, projectors, audio systems and other electronics items used in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 for 108 days." The auction had been scheduled at 4 pm on 25 April in the office of the Kochi Biennale Foundation at Kunnumpuram, Fort Kochi.
Imperium Engineers, an electronic appliances company which had supplied and installed ACs (air conditioners) during the festival, has filed a complaint against the General Manager of KMB alleging cheating and fraud. Prasanth G, of Imperium Engineers, claims most of the ACs being auctioned haven't been fully paid for and hence don't belong to KMB management. A police case was registered at the Fort Kochi police station on 13 April. Ernakulam High Court has taken cognisance of Prasanth's plaint and has given an injunction order stating the auction be withheld for now.
In the court petition, it is stated that Imperium Engineers was selected by the KMB Foundation for supplying and installing the ACs at Cabral Yard and Aspinwall House for the festival. There were two purchase orders dated 12 November and 26 November, 2018 for the supply and installation of 20 ACs at Cabral Yard and 7 ACs at Aspinwall House. In both these purchase orders, while some amount had been paid off by the KMB Foundation as an advance, the remaining amount was to be paid after "satisfactory completion of the work". This was decided mutually by both parties. However, as per the petition filed, out of Rs 34,25,735 (total amount to be paid), only Rs 31,33,000 has been paid while Rs 2,92,735 is yet to be cleared.
Imperium Engineers allege that KMB Foundation did not heed repeated reminders and notices. They also informed in the petition that the installation of these ACs in the two locations the Biennale required "complex and delicate work of engineering" and a lot of the wire connections are concealed underground. If the auction happens and the winning bidder actually comes to uninstall the appliances, it is highly likely that damages worth several lakhs might be caused both to the AC units and the connections, the company said.
The fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 commenced on 12 December 2018 and ended on 29 March, 2019.
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Updated Date: Apr 25, 2019 20:22:04 IST