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In Dispute Over Payment, Indian Court Issues Injunction Against Sale of Kochi-Muziris Biennale Equipment

Aspinwall House, one of the venues for the 2018 Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Air conditioning units used at the venue were expected to be auctioned on Thursday.

COURTESY KOCHI-MUZIRIS BIENNALE

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India has become embroiled in controversy over the sale of equipment and materials from the exhibition’s latest edition, which opened in December and closed in March. On Thursday, the Biennale issued a list of TV monitors, speakers, projectors, and other equipment for sale to prospective buyers. But a planned offering won’t be available after a court injunction prohibited the sale of air-conditioning equipment priced at 2.27 million rupees (about $32,000).

The injunction follows a claim submitted Monday by Imperium Engineers, which supplied the air-conditioning units that were used in the Cabral Yard and Aspinwall House venues for the Biennale. According to the filing, Kochi-Muziris Biennale organizers allegedly did not pay the full sum for the units and therefore could not lay claim to them.

“Kochi Biennale Foundation has received an interim injunction from the district court pausing the auction of the ACs,” a spokesperson for the Biennale said in a statement. “The auction of all other materials will proceed as planned. The legal response to the injunction is being drafted.”

[Read a review of the 2018 Kochi-Muziris Biennale.]

The news is the latest development in an ongoing dispute over the Biennale’s payments to workers and companies involved. In March, contractors who helped build one of the Biennale’s central venues alleged that they were still owed $170,000 for their work. The Biennale responded by calling their claims a “disinformation campaign.”

Further controversy has also surrounded the inner workings of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. In October, an Instagram account that focuses on sexual harassment allegations in the Indian art world known as Scene and Herd began making public allegations that Riyas Komu, one of the Biennale’s founders, had forcibly kissed a woman. Komu stepped down and apologized shortly after. Then, days after the construction workers’ claims were made public, the Biennale announced that it had dropped an inquiry into Komu’s misconduct and reinstated him to his former position.

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