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Khakhar’s Two Men in Benares fetches over Rs 22 crore at Sotheby’s

Khakhar, who was gay, first unveiled Two Men in Benares in Mumbai in 1986.

delhi Updated: Jun 12, 2019 00:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
bhupen khakhar,Two men in Benaras,Sotheby’s auction in London
Bhupen Khakhar (1943 to 2003) is celebrated in the country as one of the path-breaking modernists of India on Tuesday in Mumbai, India.(HT file photo)

Indian painter Bhupen Khakhar set a new auction record when his landmark work, Two Men in Benares, went under the hammer for Rs 22.39 at a Sotheby’s auction in London -- far exceeding its upper estimate value.

Khakhar, who was gay, first unveiled Two Men in Benares in Mumbai in 1986.

“Widely considered among the artist’s best works, the painting later starred in Tate Modern’s 2016 - “You Can’t Please All” exhibition of Khakhar’s work, the first retrospective of an Indian artist to be held at the [London] institution,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.

The auction was of works that were part of the collection “Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection”, offering 29 artworks from one of the finest collections of 20th century Indian art in private hands.

Overall, the auction house’s sale totalled £7.4million, comfortably exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £4.1-5.8 million.

The painting shows two men in embrace. It “is the most explicit of what the artist himself called his ‘efforts to come-out in open’, and to create a new iconography of homosexual love”, Sotheby’s said on its website.

“This single work by Bhupen Khakhar accounted for nearly 50% of the auction’s total turnover,” according to Artery India, an Indian art market consultancy.

The bid fetched by Two Men in Benares was about 2.5 times more than Khakhar’s previous most-expensive work De-Lux Tailors, an oil on canvas sold by Sotheby’s in 2017, which achieved a price of Rs 9.4 crore, according to Artery India. Khakhar died in 2003.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Jun 12, 2019 00:54 IST