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The first Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which starts today, will celebrate contemporary visual art over the next three months.

On the historic date of 12/12/12, Fort Kochi — which houses several heritage structures including the oldest European church in India — will host the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Over the next three months, colour and craft would be on display on the weather-beaten walls along the narrow streets of Fort Kochi and the nearby Mattanchery, known for the Jewish synagogue, apart from renovated warehouses and a few art galleries. Artists of all ilk and medium, students of fine arts, biennale lovers from across the world and connoisseurs of art will join the event, known as the celebration of contemporary visual art.

Unlike other international events staged at swanky venues, the biennale has gone a little wild in search of space for artists to unwrap their genius. The prime venue is the sprawling property of Aspinwall and Company Limited, which was established in 1867. Its unused buildings, which had been warehouses for the spices business, have suddenly come under the grip of the biennale rage. Whitewashed walls have become canvasses for several artists, while others are using the halls and open grounds to shape their sculptures and installations.

"The buildings and compounds were unattended for quite some time. We had cleared the compound of shrugs, did minor repairs and ensured power supply," says artist Bony Thomas, trustee of the biennale.

Ditto is the case of a dilapidated warehouse and abandoned dockyard at Kalvetty near Mattanchery, which had been a hub of trade in the past, and is now a creative hub for artists. Delhi-based artists M Pravat, Navid Tschopp, Sayantan Maitra Boka and Susanta Mandal have marked the warehouse, now known as Pepper house, as the spot where their site-specific installations will be created.

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