Bhupen Khakhar (India, 1934-2003) Man in Pub Man in Pub

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Lot 18
Bhupen Khakhar
(India, 1934-2003)
Man in Pub

Sold for £ 263,000 (US$ 361,668) inc. premium
Bhupen Khakhar (India, 1934-2003) Man in Pub
Man in Pub
Oil on canvas
122 x 122cm (48 1/16 x 48 1/16in).


  • Please note this work measures 101cm x 101cm.
    This work features Anthony Stokes Gallery and Tate Modern Gallery labels on reverse.
    The work is further inscribed 'Started on / 3/12/79' on reverse.
    Collection of Mr Tariq Ali, London
    Acquired directly from the artist in 1985

    Hester Van Royen Gallery and Anthony Stokes Ltd, Bhupen Khakhar - Paintings, 20 June - 14 July 1979;
    Kasmin Knoedler Gallery, London, 1983;
    Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Bhupen Khakhar, Madrid, 6 June - 16 September 2002;
    Tate Modern, You can't Please All, London, 1 June - 6 November 2016.

    Enrique Juncosa and Geeta Kapur, Bhupen Khakhar, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid 2002
    Timothy Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar, Chemould/Mapin, 1998, p.54
    Bhupen Khakhar: You Can't Please All, Tate Publishing, London, 2016, p. 43

    Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003) belonged to a generation of postcolonial Indian artists who devoted themselves to irony, allegory and the playful subversion of bourgeois social pieties. They embraced the local character of metropolitan and small-town India in all its roughness, awkwardness and makeshiftness, representing the middle-class and working-class lifeworlds that had largely been excluded from the polite domain of an art dominated by abstract and transcendentalist forms.

    A dramatist and fiction-writer in addition to being a painter, Khakhar participated in two coups d'etat of representation. During the 1960s, he brought the garish interiors and bricolage aesthetic of the non-Anglophone middle class into art during the 1960s; and by the 1990s, he had come out as India's first gay artist, revelling in such taboo subjects as the pleasures of homoerotic life and its picaresque dramaturgy. Working through an interplay of voyeurism and clairvoyance in both phases, Khakhar remained committed to an epiphanic portraiture, attentive to the small choreographies of interpersonal contact, the details of look, touch and speech.

    During the 1970s, Khakhar met Howard Hodgkin, who had discovered his work at the second edition of Triennale India, held in New Delhi in 1972; Hodgkin visited Khakhar in Baroda on his next visit to the subcontinent, and soon, a friendship developed between the two artists. It was at Hodgkin's prompting that the Bath Academy of Art invited Khakhar to be artist-in-residence at its painting department in 1979. The Indian artist spent the first six months of that year in Bath, staying at Hodgkin's home, Monk's Park, for the duration of his residency; this period culminated in a solo exhibition of his work at Anthony Stokes' gallery in London.

    A connoisseur of the shifting balance between solitude and sociality, Khakhar was a natural-born anthropologist who shuttled easily between the roles of participant and observer in the various interpersonal situations in which he found himself. A curious, empathetic visitor whose first experience of the UK was deep winter – indeed, this was his very first trip overseas – he found himself drawn to personae isolated by personal choices, occupational circumstances and harsh weather. Khakhar tended to fuse his portraits of others with self-portraits, so that his anxieties, exhilarations and predicaments became interwoven with those of his subjects.

    'Man in Pub' articulates this interpenetration of self and other: the subject of this act of portraiture is Khakhar, exploring the unfamiliar yet inviting sociality of the pub; and yet it is also a compound of the regulars he met at the pub. His deliberate use of seemingly naïve idioms acted as camouflage for a sophisticated retrieval of various styles, including the Rajput miniature, the Nathdwara pichhwai or backcloth, the wayside votive shrine, and the cinema poster. Khakhar has sometimes been compared to Henri Rousseau for the wide-eyed quality of his gaze, which took in the familiar and the strange with equal delight, translating them into an oneiric, otherworldly reality. Unlike 'le Douanier', he was far more knowing in his assessments of individuals and the forms of community they attempted to produce around themselves; trained as a chartered accountant, Khakhar brought a knowingness to his negotiations with his unsuspecting subjects on the one hand and his art-world viewers on the other.

    The picture space of 'Man in Pub', like several other paintings by Khakhar, is divided into a number of episodic spaces, much as a number of the Nathdwara pichhwais are: they depict the deity Shrinathji as a major emphasis, with scenes from his life as details. The protagonist of 'Man in Pub' is seen perched on a bar stool against a blue backdrop that is more backcloth than wallpaper. Scenes from his everyday life – replete with solitary bed, clothes laid out waiting to be worn, warm teapot – reveal warmly intimate, domestic aspects of a figure otherwise seemingly alienated from its context. This painting takes its place, in Bhupen Khakhar's oeuvre, beside such works as 'The Weatherman' (1979) and 'Joe Hope and Mary Hope at Box' (1979).

    Ranjit Hoskote, Independent Curator


    Timothy Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar (Bombay: Chemould Publications & Arts/ Ahmedabad: Mapin, 1998).

Saleroom notices

  • Please note this work measures 101cm x 101cm. This work features Anthony Stokes Gallery and Tate Modern Gallery labels on reverse. The work is further inscribed 'Started on / 3/12/79' on reverse.
Bhupen Khakhar (India, 1934-2003) Man in Pub Man in Pub
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