Lot 22
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Phoren Soap: An Illustrated Story in Gujarati

AUTHOR: Bhupen Khakhar
TRANSLATORS: Ganesh Devi and Naushil Mehta
PUBLISHER: Self published by the author
PLACE: Baroda
YEAR: 1998
BINDING: Hardcover with slipcase
Height: 10.5 in (26.25 cm)
Width: 11.5 in (28.75 cm)
Depth: 1 in (2.5 cm)

Bhupen Khakhar is remembered as an iconoclast and a maverick, a man who never did what was expected, and who was open about his views on everything – from social sectarianism to his own homosexuality, all of which are reflected in his works. Born in 1934, Khakhar began his career in art fairly late in life, at the age of 38. Then a practicing chartered accountant, he joined the M.S. University at Baroda to study art criticism in his late 1930s, and began his career as an artist creating collages from calendar art. He notes, "I was interested in the expressionistic style, which had no wit and humor. Now I am more involved in wit, painting people, and the environment around me."

Khakhar received international acclaim as an artist much before he got recognition in India, when British artist Howard Hodgkin helped him organize a solo exhibition in the late 1970s. Among his inspirations, the painter counts British artist David Hockney. Like Hockney's work, Khakhar's own initial paintings revolved around the everyday, 'insignificant man' trapped in an unremarkable existence. Khakhar also worked with his contemporaries in Baroda like Gulammohammed Sheikh, to evolve a visual language that combined traditional Indian art elements with contemporary themes.

Khakhar’s exploration of homosexuality is quite evident in paintings like 'You Can't Please All' and 'Two Men in Benares', prompting writer and painter Timothy Hyman, in his biography on Khakhar, to say, "He is possibly the most provocative painter in contemporary Indian art." The artist elaborates: "I have chosen homo-eroticism as a theme because I am gay. What is happening in India – social rejection – did happen once in countries like USA and Europe. The police in all societies have beaten up gays and lesbians. But now they have been accepted by society. For me, there is nothing unnatural about homosexuality."

Critics say that during his homoerotic phase, the artistic observations that made Khakhar a chronicler of ordinary beings had been pushed into the background. In contrast, his most recent paintings are more assured, more settled than those he created during what he describes as his ‘gay period'. “I feel much lighter now. My personal tensions have been resolved. At 64, you no longer have the feeling that you will never die. One leaves the ambition to become a great painter and accepts whatever one is. Earlier, I worried all the time about my position as an artist,” he recounts. Khakhar's later canvases explore Kerala landscapes, Tamilian dhabas (roadside hotels), and the religious iconography of everyday life in India.

Khakhar's paintings can be found in several public collections including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in many private collections as well. His works have been exhibited across India and the world, most recently in 2009 in exhibitions like 'Long Gone & Living Now' at Gallerie Mirchandani + Steinreucke, Mumbai; ‘Progressive to Altermodern: 62 Years of Indian Modern Art' at Grosvenor Gallery, London; ‘Kalpana: Figurative Art in India' presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at Aicon Gallery, London; and 'Shifting Shapes, Unstable Signs' at Yale School of Art in New Haven. Other posthumous exhibitions in which the artist’s works have been included are 'Multiple Modernities: India, 1905-2005' at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in 2008; ‘Expanding Horizons: Contemporary Indian Art’ presented by Bodhi Art in eight cities in Maharashtra in 2008-09; ‘India Art Now: Between Continuity and Transformation’, Milan, in 2007-08; ‘Horn Please: Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art’ at Kunstmuseum, Bern, in 2007; and ‘Inventing / Inverting Traditions’ at Grosvenor Vadehra, London, in 2006-07.

Solo exhibitions of the artist’s work include ‘A Retrospective’ organized by the Fine Art Resource at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai, in 2003; and exhibitions at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi in 2002; Optica Gallery, Montreal, and Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver, in 2001-02; the Fine Art Resource, Berlin, in 1998; the Gate Foundation, Amsterdam, in 1998; Gallery Ka-Eins, Frankfurt, in 1993; Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, in 1991; Gallery Watari, Tokyo, in 1986; Knoedler Gallery, London, in 1983; Hester van Royen Gallery, London, in 1979; and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1965. The artist was awarded by the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1984.

Bhupen Khakhar passed away in 2003.

  Lot 22 of 85  

8-9 AUGUST 2012


Each print signed in Gujarati and numbered 34/50

Thirty-fourth from a limited edition of fifty

This illustrated book, and the suite of fifteen etchings is includes, are from a limited edition of fifty

Category: Books


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