Artist and Kochi-Muziris Biennale co-founder/secretary Riyas Komu is the latest prominent figure from the art world to be accused of sexual misconduct.
The allegation, made by an art world professional, was shared on the anonymously-run Instagram account ‘Scene and Herd’ late October 16. In the post, the woman described being pushed against a wall and kissed by the artist.
“He began kissing me and feeling me up while I struggled to even process what the hell was going on. I was so petrified that I just let it happen. It stopped just as abruptly as it had started. And then he left. It didn’t stop here. I was violated again by him during my stay in Kochi,” she wrote.
The 37-year-old woman had posted a shorter version of the post, which didn’t name Komu, on the same account on October 9. Stating that she still felt vulnerable that time, she told The Indian Express that with others publicly naming their abusers, she gained the confidence to do the same.
These incidents allegedly took place in October 2015, when the woman had gone to Kochi to discuss a project with the 47-year-old artist.
Responding to the allegation on his Instagram account on Thursday, Komu wrote, “I’m deeply upset that this incident has been understood and presented in this manner. However, as the person has expressed hurt, I would like here to offer my apologies and I am opening myself to the possibility of a conversation.”
He added, “As an artist who is committed to social and political causes, I support the #MeToo movement that has disrupted the prevailing structures of authority and created ways for representing previously suppressed voices.”
“It’s a burden I’ve carried with me for too long. I’ve had to be around him and share space with him at events and while it was slowly destroying me… I guess I just had enough… This couldn’t be just my burden. It’s now the burden of the community and all those who enable him, who support him, who now have the responsibility to make sure that they do everything in their power to hold him accountable for his actions,” she said.
Stating that she was afraid to speak up earlier, the woman added, “I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what had happened because I was worried that he would destroy my career…”
Responding to a text message from The Indian Express, Bose Krishnamachari, president and co-founder of KMB, stated that a meeting of KMB will take place on Friday and an official statement released.
Anita Dube, curator of the forthcoming edition of the biennale that is slated to begin on December 12, stated, “We are discussing the matter internally and will issue a statement.”
Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, KMB adviser and managing trustee of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, told The Indian Express, “The Biennale will issue a statement.”
On the MeToo campaign, she said, “I am glad this is happening. There is a male power play that happens… It is so difficult for women to come out and make these statements, so when they do there needs to be a certain credence given to it.” —Inputs from Vandana Kalra