Bhupen Khakhar

A visit to the Tate allowed us to explore the artwork and life of Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar, which was an exhibition there. 



Bhupen Khakhar was born 10th March 1934, Bombay, India – now known as Mumbai, India and died August 2003, Baroda – now Vadodara, the cultural capital of Gujarat. 

Khakhar is best known for his paintings although he did experiment with other media after he finished working as a chartered accountant before becoming an artist.  His change in career path is believed to have been encouraged when he met poet and painter Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh in 1958 and after introduced him to many people who he would later collaborate with.

Although he was a self-taught artist he began to mount solo exhibitions as early as 1965, with his work soon gaining attention and critical praise.  This allowed him to travel further where he enjoyed solo shows in places as far as Tokyo, Amsterdam, London and Berlin where I was looking enough to view this most current exhibition.   

He was a self-taught artist although, having seen is artwork, they have been created with vibrant oil or watercolour containing imaginative or personal references. 

“One can’t hide oneself behind a painting. It is standing naked in front of everyone – what are you are.”

Bhupen Khakhar

Having come out as a gay man and experiencing the development of the gay rights movement in Europe, Bhupen felt encouraged to explore these themes explicitly within his work. It is believed he viewed painting as an act of love and therefore translating the love he felt for his subjects through his paintings.  Often he included himself in these scenes, this autobiographical element of his work is considered to be an honest act of confession, which can be moving. 

 Throughout his career as an artist he confronted provocative and personal themes, particularly his sexuality, and his battle with cancer with humour, honesty and wit.




The exhibition at the Tate is the first time since his death that all Khakhar’s work from across five decades and collections from around the world were presented together as a unique opportunity to view his work and understand his inspirational story. 


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