Lot 36
  • 36

BHUPEN KHAKHAR | Wall of a Small Hindu Temple

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 INR
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  • Bhupen Khakhar
  • Wall of a Small Hindu Temple
  • Signed and dated in Gujarati lower right
  • Collage and mixed media on board
  • 29 x 35 in. (73.6 x 88.9 cm.)
  • Executed in 1966


Acquired directly from the artist by the current owner circa 1990s


Mumbai, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), A Retrospective, 4 - 26 November 2003 Mumbai, Jhaveri Contemporary, Considering Collage,  24 April - 23 May 2013


There are accretions, light stains and small areas of paint loss present across the surface. The central section with fabric has losses and discolouration. There are also losses to the paper, observed in parts of the collage, and a small hole in the central section of the work. Craquelure is present along the surface and the condition of the work is commensurate with age, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Bhupen Khakhar looms large as a major figure of Indian contemporary art, and an early proponent of the 'Pop' era. His earliest works such as Wall of a Small Hindu Temple were hybrids that introduced new forms of art to Indian audiences of the time. It embodies that impulse of a young, independent mind eager to peel off all that was conventional and established, and re-examine it on his own terms – Khakhar takes on this challenge with a bravura and an unrivalled spirit of experimentation. By integrating found objects like bits of discarded fabric and old newspaper, Khakhar elevates them to being equivalent to fine art. Although one would imagine Khakhar to be influenced by the Progressives because he had for a time been a student at the J. J. School of Art in Mumbai (then Bombay), he is said to have found it uninspiring and dull. Writing about Khakhar’s time at J. J., as the school is affectionately called, Timothy Hyman states that Khakhar felt it offered ‘absolutely no teaching’ and ‘hardly any direction’. “He [Palsikar] never came to instruct me, even once in six months… I was very cheesed off.” (T. Hyman, ‘Training in Baroda’, Bhupen Khakhar, Chemould Publications and Arts, Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., Ahmedabad, 1998, p. 9) By contrast, the Faculty of Fine Arts at Baroda where he took the Art Criticism course was a breath of fresh air for Khakhar – it was new, it was contemporary. It was in this atmosphere of free and original thought that Khakhar thrived.

When he moved to Baroda in the early 1960s, Khakhar shared a flat for a short while with Jim Donovan, then a fellow student from London in the Old Town of Baroda. Donovan was instrumental in introducing Khakhar to the Pop art movement in Britain at the time, and it was this encounter that formed the central core of Khakhar’s philosophy (Hyman, Ibid, p. 12-13). Collages were some of the first works of art Khakhar produced, and also his rarest because he made such few works. Like many of this contemporaries Khakhar also broke with convention in favour of this radical art form, juxtaposing found objects as a form of artistic expression. His choice of collage as a medium was also probably because Khakhar was not then fully trained as a painter. It would be a few years before Khakhar would make his debut as a painter with People in Dharamshala which he painted in 1968. (T. Hyman, ibid. p. 15)

Wall of a Small Hindu Temple reflects the ‘beauty’ and ‘vitality’ of the colours Khakhar observed in the bustling bazaars and narrow crowded streets and the numerous shrines and temples where he lived. Like most Baroda School artists, Khakhar’s work was about the narrative. The imagery set against a familiar shade of turmeric yellow is one of contrast and contradiction; the image of Nehru with Kennedy is perhaps a commentary on the political climate of the time – Nehru’s utopian vision of an industrialised modern India at odds with her ancient traditions which he alludes to through religious symbolism and fragments cut from calendars and other print media, each on the fringes of art yet expertly brought together in an explosive cacophony. Uncommon for the time, this meld of unusual materials together produce Khakhar’s visual and symbolic blend of mythology, history and language.