[T]he cost of executing designs for the pavilion by the New Delhi–based firm Anagram Architects exceeded expectations, and the Biennale allegedly refused to foot the bill for facets of the pavilion that went beyond what was budgeted, including electrical work and lighting.
Last week, the Instagram account @justicefrombiennale18_19 began posting allegations that the biennial owes more than 12.3 million rupees (about $178,500) to a group of contractors who aided in the construction of the pavilion at Cabral Yard in Kochi, one of the Biennale’s central locations. On Friday, the account began posting portraits of workers who had contributed to the building. One portrait, of a steel fabricator named Thambii Chettan, alleges that he is still owed 40 percent of his wages; it reads, in part, “His life is stuck. He has lost the confidence to trust people.”
In response to the allegations put forward on Instagram, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale released a statement on Saturday in which the foundation called the workers’ claims a “disinformation campaign.”
On March 18, lawyers working with Appu Thomas, the director of the Kerala-based contracting company Thomas Clery Infrastructures and Developers, which oversaw the pavilion’s construction, sent a legal notice to the Kochi Biennale Foundation. The notice, since obtained by ARTnews, addresses the building of a pavilion known as the Knowledge Laboratory, which Anita Dube, the curator of the Biennale, envisioned as the exhibition’s centerpiece. Lectures and musical performances have been staged at the structure, in what Dube called an “attempt to remove hierarchies of knowledge.”