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Bhupen Khakhar sets sale record at Sotheby’s auction

Bhupen Khakhar's painting 'De-Luxe Tailors' fetches record-breaking 1.1 million at Sotheby's auction

‘De-Luxe Tailors’ by Bhupen Khakhar. Photo: Sotheby’s
‘De-Luxe Tailors’ by Bhupen Khakhar. Photo: Sotheby’s

It is a strange fate of many famous artists that they earn far more posthumously than while they’re alive. Bhupen Khakhar, one of the foremost figures of Indian modernism, has set a new sale record. The painting De-Luxe Tailors from his Tradesmen series, whose pre-sale estimate was £2,50,000-3,50,000 (Rs2.1-3 crore), was sold for £1.1 million (Rs9.5 crore) on Tuesday at Sotheby’s in London, breaking his previous record of £4,34500 for Night (1996) sold in 2014.

The painting was part of the British artist Howard Hodgkin’s personal collection, which was sold in the much-awaited auction Howard Hodgkin: Portrait of the Artist on 24 October. Hodgkin, who loved India and Indian art, considered Khakhar a close friend and often hosted him in the UK, helping him build relationships in the art world.

Hodgkin was drawn to Khakhar’s bizarre, uninhibited style, which avoided abstraction and often focused on the human body, once remarking, “Khakhar has been able to paint what he lives, nothing about art and everything about life—without hang ups."

The eye of the global art fraternity, much active in the neighbouring China, is slowly turning towards India. A major retrospective of Bhupen Khakhar at Tate Modern in London last year could probably be credited for the significant leap in the commanding price of Khakhar’s work. The painting, then owned by Hodgkin, was one among the many displayed.

Yamini Mehta, international head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Sotheby’s, said after the sale that Khakhar’s works “are now being sought after by major museums and his reputation will only continue to grow in stature."

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