Introduction

Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All is the first international retrospective of work by the Indian artist since his death in 2003, bringing together work from across five decades. Bhupen Khakhar played a central role in modern Indian art, renowned for his use of colour and engaging, figurative style. From his early paintings, portraying the lives of local workers and tradesmen, Khakhar was committed to presenting the world as he experienced it. Throughout his career he confronted provocative themes, particularly his identity as a gay man, with honesty, sensitivity and wit. Towards the end of his life, he depicted the realities of his battle with cancer in characteristically unflinching detail.

Born in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1934, Khakhar initially studied accountancy before he moved to Baroda (Vadodara) in Gujarat for a master’s degree in art criticism. Away from the conventional demands of family, he found artistic freedom in the intellectual and artistic community around the Department of Fine Arts at Maharaja Siyajirao University. Khakhar was affiliated with a group of Indian artists who moved away from modernist abstraction to paint narrative-led and figurative compositions, taking inspiration from folk and classical South Asian art and contemporary visual culture.