Exhibitions on View: ‘Bhupen Khakhar’


Khakhar painting “Paan Beedi Shop” at Documenta IX, Kassel, 1992. Photograph by Benjamin Katz.

“I think your own weakness should also be reflected in painting. One can’t hide oneself behind a painting. It is standing naked in front of everyone—what you are.”—Bhupen Khakhar, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1983

The University of Washington Press recently copublished Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All, edited by Chris Dercon and Nada Raza, with Tate Modern in London. The book accompanies an exhibition on display until November 6, 2016. Bringing together Khakhar’s paintings and some of his ceramics, Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All is a rare opportunity to discover Khakhar’s work and his inspirational story.

Bhupen Khakhar (1934–2003) was central to the development of modern Indian art. An accountant turned artist, he experimented with pop art early on but developed his own style of painting that combined both popular and painterly aesthetics. A gentle radical, his luminous paintings addressed issues of class, gender, and sexuality with sensitive, often tragicomic nuance.

You Can't Please All 1981 Bhupen Khakhar 1934-2003 Purchased 1996 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07200

Bhupen Khakhar, “You Can’t Please All,” 1981. Tate © Estate of Bhupen Khakhar

“Some commentators have suggested that he’s a pop artist—but he’s much more. The strength of his work . . . is that it’s disruptive and provokes deep questions about society.”—Devika Singh, Smuts Research Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies

British artist and critic Timothy Hyman considered You Can’t Please All Khakhar’s “coming out painting.” Khakhar was celebrated for his honest approach to life as a gay man in India during the late twentieth century. He explored homosexual themes in his works and often included himself in these scenes.

With personal and touching contributions by those who knew him, the richly illustrated publication is an essential reference to one of the most compelling and unique voices in twentieth-century art, as well as a significant contribution to the field of international modernism.

Join the conversation #Khakhar

Related events at Tate Modern

Tate Modern Talk and Lecture: Truth is Beauty (with curators and specialists including Chris Dercon) // July 2, 2016, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Members Private View // July 4, 2016, 6:45-9:30 p.m.

Curator’s Tour with curator Nada Raza  // July 11, 2016, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

“When I feel I’m telling the truth, then there is no restraint.”—Bhupen Khakhar, interview with Sadanand Menon, The Hindu Magazine, 2003


Bhupen Khakhar, “American Survey Officer,” 1969. Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

“His paintings were so odd, strange, weird . . . the formation, the figuration, the subject matter, the colours . . . everything the way he saw it was full of humour and wit.”—Atul Dodiya at Salon: Art History, Art Basel, 2013


Bhupen Khakhar, “Night,” 1996. Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

“There was a dark side to Bhupen, he did see the emptiness of many people’s lives.”—Timothy Hyman at Salon: Art History, Art Basel, 2013