Auction record broken for Bhupen Khakhar; Two Men in Benares sells for 2.54 million pounds
Sotheby’s sales of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art totalled £7,459,000 ($9.5 million) in London today comfortably exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £4.1-5.8 million. This is the highest total achieved in a decade for a sale of this kind at Sotheby’s in London.
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. With each and every artwork appearing at auction for the first time, and the majority of the pieces having been acquired directly from the artists themselves, the collection doubled the pre-sale estimate to sell for a total of £5,489,875 (est. £2.1-2.9 million).
The Coups de Coeur sale was led by Bhupen Khakhar’s landmark Two Men in Benares (1982) which established a new record for the artist at £2.54 million / $3.2 million (£450,000-600,000), more than doubling the previous benchmark of £1.1 million set by De-Luxe Tailors (1972) at Sotheby’s London auction of Howard Hodgkin’s collection in 2017.
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. 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 institution.
Elsewhere in the sale, M.F. Husain’s Marathi Woman (1950) quadrupled its pre-sale estimate to sell for £435,000 / $553,146 (est. £75,000-100,000); 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 / $659,960, double the pre-sale estimate (£220,00-280,000); and Anatomy of that Old Story (1970) from Rameshwar Broota’s Ape series also quadrupled its estimate to make £423,000 / $537,887 (est. £90,000-120,000).
The afternoon various-owner sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art which followed was led by Francis Newton Souza’s monumental Untitled pai
Ishrat Kanga, Head of Sale, said: “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. 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.”