Indian Artist’s painting from the 80’s showcasing homosexuality sold for 3.2 million dollars

LGBTQ+ rights are the most alarming news right now. With the government legalising same-sex marriage, India took one step ahead in this fight of equal rights for all. But it is still a long way from a win because of society’s mindset. While most of the LGBTQ+ community members are afraid to come forward and accept it in public, Bhupen Khakhar, an Indian contemporary artist, portrayed his sexual orientation very proudly and fearlessly through his paintings. He believed that it is the ultimate goal of an artist to capture human beings in their local environment, climate, provincial society. He believed in portraying his thoughts without any filter through his artworks and is till now appreciated for it. The autobiographical element of his work has the power to both surprises and move the world.

One of his paintings, “Two men in Benares(1980s)”, has set a new record by being sold for 3.2 million dollars (around ₹22.5 crore) at a Sotheby’s auction in London. This 6×6 painting shows two naked men in each other’s arms. The painting was first time displayed in Mumbai in 1986 and with that he became the first Indian artist to show his personal preference in front of the society. It was also a part of Tate Modern’s 2016, “You Can’t Please All”, an exhibition of Khakhar’s work.

The painting was from the collection, titled “Coups de Coeur” which belonged to a Swiss family, the Barbiers, they collected these artworks while their visit to India in the late seventies and eighties. They offered in total 29 artworks of 20th C Indian art for the auction. There was also M.F. Hussain’s “Marathi Woman” (1950), Ram Kumar’s Untitled artwork of 1953 showing a man and woman holding hands and Rameshwar Broota’s The Anatomy of that Old Story (1970) among other fine artworks.

Ishrat Kanga, Head of Sales at Sotheby’s said that the success of this auction is a tribute to Guy and Helen Barbier, who passionately collected these Indian artworks that they truly loved and celebrated.

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