Bhupen Khakhar, Residency Bungalow, 1969.
Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams

Auction of the Week: Rare Early Painting by India’s First Pop Artist Soars Above Estimate

An early work by the seminal, self-taught Indian painter, who was known for his intimate scenes and richly colored landscapes, triumphed at Bonhams South Asian Sale in June

An important early work by the late Indian painter Bhupen Khakhar titled Residency Bungalow (1969) smashed its pre-sale estimate at Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art sale on June 6 at New Bond Street, London.

Painted in 1969, the piece was first exhibited at the 1969 São Paulo Biennale before being acquired by a private American Collection in the early 1970s. It remained in that collection ever since. After a period of intense bidding, the piece finally hit the block for £1.98 million, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £250,000–£350,000.

Bhupen Khakhar, Residency Bungalow, 1969 Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams

A former account and largely self-taught artist, Khakhar discovered his passion for painting quite late in life, becoming a member of the Baroda Group. This lush painting depicts Khakhar’s first significant home away from Bombay, a place where he honed his signature style, which can be characterized by deftly blending aesthetics and referencing both miniature painting and modernist genres. During the creation of this painting, he was starting to receive acclaim as an artist but still working part-time as an accountant. His most celebrated works feature intimate scenes of figures amidst richly colored landscapes in a bold palette uniquely his own. Fiercely independent in spirit, Khakhar would go on to portray ironic depictions of social types and challenged the aspirations of the Indian middle-class, often touching on topics that were controversial.

“It is an intimate and masterful work, and an exquisite example from the artist’s early oeuvre,” says Priya Singh, Bonhams specialist, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art. “Making its market debut at Bonhams after decades in private hands, it is no surprise this sale sparked so much excitement for buyers.”

Cover: Bhupen Khakhar, Residency Bungalow, 1969.
Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams


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