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Bhupen Khakhar's gay love painting sets new auction record at UK auction

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Leading Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar set a new auction record when his landmark painting Two Men in Benares' went under the hammer for 2.54 million pounds at a Sotheby's auction here.

When Khakhar first unveiled Two Men in Benares' in Mumbai in 1986, he became the first Indian artist to freely disclose his sexual orientation through his work and on Monday it went down in the record books for far exceeding its 450,000-600,000 pounds estimate.

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.

Overall, the auction house's sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art totalled 7,459,000, pounds comfortably exceeding the pre-sale estimate of 4.1-5.8 million pounds.

This season's sales opened with the auction of Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection, an offering of 29 artworks from one of the finest collections of 20th century Indian art in private hands.

Each and every artwork appeared at auction for the first time and the majority of the pieces having been acquired directly from the artists themselves.

MF Husain's Marathi Woman' (1950) quadrupled its pre-sale estimate to sell for 435,000 pounds; a rare figurative work by Ram Kumar, Untitled (Man and Woman Holding Hands)' painted as a present for the artist's wife in 1953, sold for 519,000, pounds double its pre-sale estimate; and Anatomy of that Old Story' (1970) from Rameshwar Broota's Ape series also quadrupled its estimate to make 423,000 pounds.

These exceptional results are a fitting tribute to the pioneering spirit of Guy and Helen Barbier, who passionately sought out exceptional examples of Indian art at a time when few others thought to, said Ishrat Kanga, Head of Sale at Sotheby's.

They collected with a coups de coeur', acquiring works that they truly loved and with a real commitment to discovering and celebrating Indian art. Through the friendships they established with many of the artists they met along the way, they accumulated one of the best collections of its kind, as proven by the lively bidding and competition we saw in the saleroom today, Kanga said.

Across the wider sale on Monday, Francis Newton Souza's monumental Untitled' painting sold for 1.2 million pounds.

Described by the artist himself as a probable masterpiece, the painting tells the Old Testament story of Susanna and the Elders', in which a young Jewish woman, who refuses the advances of her husband's elderly male guests, is accused of promiscuity and put on trial for her life. In the end, virtue triumphs and the elders are put to death.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Tue, June 11 2019. 15:15 IST