Adam Szymczyk on the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale


As part of the Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums and Artists (A.i.A.‘s August issue), we preview the 2016-17 season of museum exhibitions worldwide. In addition to offering their own top picks, our editors asked select artists, curators and collectors to identify the shows they are looking forward to. Here, Adam Szymczyk talks about the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

“I am happy to recommend—and personally look forward to visiting—the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. It’s currently the most important undertaking of this kind on the Indian subcontinent and a mecca for cultural producers and visitors, whether from the region or from afar. 

“Located on the southwestern coast in the state of Kerala, the city of Kochi boasts magnificent forts and splendid historical venues scattered around the still-active harbor. These buildings house the exhibition, which is organized by the Kochi Biennale Foundation, a nonprofit charitable trust for the promotion of art, culture, and educational projects in India. The double name of the biennale includes the real location, Kochi—a port on the Arabian Sea colonized by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century and later occupied by the Dutch and British—as well as a historical predecessor, the ancient city of Muziris, founded no later than 1 B.C., which was lost from history until archaeologists recently located its likely ruins some twelve miles from Kochi. 

“Such historical matters notwithstanding, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is a place to see, experience, and discuss contemporary art from India and the region in a larger, international context. This edition is curated by Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty, who says he designed his biennale to take its energy from both the mythical and historical (and, I hope, contemporary) location of Kochi.”

Kochi-Muziris Biennale, various venues, Kerala, India, Dec. 12, 2016–Mar. 29, 2017.


Adam Szymczyk is artistic director of Documenta 14.