24 Jun 2018 | Liberation/ Revelation/ Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar

Drawing from the Margins: Bhupen Khakhar’s art practice was informed by a vibrant radicalism

One of the first Indian artists to come out of the closet and talk about alternative sexualities, Bhupen Khakhar’s art practice was informed by a vibrant radicalism. Fifteen years after his death, as the Indian market begins to appreciate his genius, a look at the enduring legacy of his art and why he continues to be relevant today.

When Tate Modern, London, held a retrospective of the late Bhupen Khakhar’s work in 2016, it titled it “Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All”, after a 1981 oil painting by the artist. The painting it referenced featured a naked male figure leaning across a balcony, watching an ancient fable play out below. A father and son were on their way to a market with a donkey. On the long trek, they took turns at riding the beast. At each turn, passers-by had an opinion to offer on who should be riding the donkey. In the end, the father tells his bewildered son: “Please all, and you will please none!” Painted a year after his mother’s death in 1980, the work is cited by British artist Timothy Hyman as Khakhar’s “coming-out painting”.

Read more here.


5 Apr 2018 | Liberation/ Revelation/ Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar

Figuratively personal

Artist Bhupen Khakhar’s oil paintings were often narrative and autobiographical, with his first exhibited works presenting deities cut from popular prints, glued on mirrors. 

An exhibition from a personal collection of works by Bhupen Khakhar is ongoing at the Swaraj Art Archives, Sector 2, NOIDA. Khakhar was a self-trained artist, and started his career as a painter somewhat late in life.

Concerned with the human body and its identity, his works were mostly figurative in nature. A self-professed homosexual, the problem of gender definitions and gender identity are major themes of his work. His paintings often contained learned references to Indian mythology and mythological themes.

Read more here.


4 Apr 2018 | Liberation/ Revelation/ Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar

Modern artist Bhupen Khakhar’s works are all about everyday life filled with sensuality

Robust colours, erotica and something from everyday life – Bhupen Khakhar’s exhibits offer all of this and a lot more. The collection of 149 art works, on display at the Swaraj Archives in Noida, stands testimony to the process of the famed artist’s spectacular trajectory.

Former NGMA director Rajiv Lochan, who has curated the show “Liberation, Revelation/Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar”, describes the artist’s approach as “naive, supple sensuality”. Something as mundane as a dog, a donkey or a wall clock were a source of inspiration to him, as were complex physical encounters – hetero or homosexual.

Lochan said Khakhar’s lack of formal art education worked in his favour, allowing him unconditional freedom of thought, content and expression. “The unskilled part was his strength,” Lochan told PTI. The show seems not so much about individual artwork as it is about the journey of the artist who died in 2003.

Read more here.


4 Apr 2018 | Liberation/ Revelation/ Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar

Portrait of an artist: Naive, supple, erotic

Robust colours, erotica and something from everyday life – Bhupen Khakhars exhibits offer all of this and a lot more.

The collection of 149 art works, on display at the Swaraj Archives in Noida, stands testimony to the process of the famed artists spectacular trajectory.

Read more here.


24 Mar 2018 | Liberation/ Revelation/ Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar

Bhupen Khakhar’s everyday realities on view at Noida show

Bhupen Khakhar established himself among the very few Indian artists who have been celebrated both within the country, as well as internationally during his lifetime. The works of the deceased artist, titled Liberation / Revelation / Representation, at Swaraj Art Archives in Noida, will showcase realities of the everyday and personal fantasies fuse to form an inimitable language unique to the artist. One must also not to forget that he lived on his own terms and his artworks reflected his personal preferences and priorities.

Read more here.


15 Nov 2016 | Four Decades: A painter’s journey 

Cut to story

Contemporary artist Arpana Caur’s major retrospective at NGMA Bengaluru shows how her art is triggered by the immediate environment.

In her one and a half-day visit to the city, she could only accommodate setting up the show at NGMA Bengaluru for her retrospective “Four Decades: A Painter’s Journey” and its opening. But then the senior artist thinks from her heart. So, there she was at Venkatappa Art Gallery on the morning of the day she was to fly back to Delhi repainting her mural.

“The mural had become dull. The work deals with Buddha, one of my favourite subjects and makes an important statement. I don’t come to Bangalore often and just wanted to utilise the opportunity,” says Arpana.

That is Arpana Caur’s approach to art and life. Reaction and responses to the surroundings make up the oeuvre of this seminal contemporary artist. Extending this philosophy outside the canvas, she has led battles against illegal encroachments on a heritage building; set up a folk art museum to preserve some rare paintings and runs a vocational school for underprivileged girls.

Read more here.


13 Nov 2016 | Four Decades: A painter’s journey 

Threads of Life: Arpana Caur’s journey of becoming an artist living through violence

Arpana Caur — whose retrospective opens at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore, this month — on how she came to be an artist, living through the 1984 anti-Sikh violence and why scissors crop up on her canvases.

This is one of your biggest shows, spanning four decades of your work. Do you think the works represent your various engagements over the years?
I was surprised to see all the work that Vijay Aggarwal from Swaraj Art Archive (organiser) had purchased. Almost all the subjects that I have worked on are in the show, from Buddha and Guru Nanak to environmental concerns, the widows of Vrindavan, and the 1984 genocide. I cannot imagine why someone would want to buy such dark works. When I look back, I feel a lot of my previous work was too dark, too heavy. Earlier, I did not realise that I put everything out there, it (my canvas) was filled edge to edge. In the last decade, that has changed. I have realised an element of abstraction is important; the negative space is actually a positive one. Now, my canvases are less crowded, and the figures minimal.

Read more here.


13 Nov 2016 | Four Decades: A painter’s journey

Canvassing for causes

A retrospective of 40 years of Arpana Caur’s work, and a conversation with the artist

Her flight delayed by Delhi’s infamous smog, artist Arpana Caur arrives a couple of hours later than scheduled in Bengaluru, where her retrospective show ‘Four Decades: A Painter’s Journey’ is to open the next day.

When we meet at a hotel lobby, an apologetic Caur offers me a ride to the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), the venue of a retrospective spanning 40 years of her work. In the taxi, Caur and Vijay Kumar Aggarwal, founder of Noida-based Swaraj Art Archive, from whose collection the entire show germinated, excitedly look out for familiar sights. She spots Kanteerva Stadium — “I have done a mural there” — and as we approach Cubbon Park, Caur announces that she will close her eyes. The taxi passes a government building on whose facade she had painted a Roerich-inspired landscape mural, now covered with a dull tile cladding. “Jija Hari Singh (former Director General of Police) had requested me to do the mural saying all she could give me in lieu of payment was the best wall. I readily agreed.”

Read more here.


29 Oct 2016 | Four Decades: A painter’s journey 

An artist who has made the duality of human existence her central concern

Veteran artist Arpana Caur, whose painting was once bought by M.F. Husain, is part of a retrospective show, which is soon to be hosted at the NGMA, Bengaluru. This will be a rare chance for us to explore her life’s work, writes Bhumika Popli.

Who am I to choose the name ‘Amrita’ for myself?” the Delhi-based artist Arpana Caur was confronted with this thought when she was 15. Until this age, she only had a nickname — which she wouldn’t reveal to us — and not what most of us would consider a “proper” name. So as a 15-year-old, she had to choose between two names, Amrita and Arpana, both of which had been shortlisted by her. “I was hugely inspired by the painter Amrita Sher-Gil and I would have liked being named after her but decided against it. She was such a great artist and I didn’t feel that I could match her stature.” So Arpana it was.

The young girl at the time didn’t know that she would go on to make a name for herself in the world of visual arts, much like Sher-Gil had done so many years ago.


Read more here.


29 Jan 2016 | Company School: Indo-British painting in Colonial India from the Swaraj Collection

5 major attractions at India Art Fair 2016

Siberian Cranes may be reluctant to migrate to Delhi in larger numbers during the winter, but culture vultures returned in hordes to pay homage to the mecca of art aficionados that Delhi welcomes at the close of January every year.

The India Art Fair opened to its usual enthusiasm but was greeted by a rather sombre tone; a much wilted, watered-down rendition from last year.

From the flowing wine that usually paints the mood to the march of Jimmy Choos and Louboutins, even the air kissing seemed more utilitarian somehow.

The scale of the galleries and the number participating is definitely Spartan compared to last time. More focused, less sprawling but still engaging, a treat for art lovers nonetheless with tons to gawp squiffily at.

Here is our list of five must-sees: Read more here.


29 March 2015 | Sunil Janah

Rediscovering INDIA

To call it a delightful slice of history would be an understatement because what’s on view at Tasveer Art Gallery in Bangalore is much more. Not only because the selection of vintage prints introduces the viewer to a bygone India but also because the man behind the lens was the incredible Sunil Janah. The Assam-born photographer documented some of the most seminal events between 1940 and 1960 — the Bengal famine, the freedom struggle, Partition, tribal studies… yet we don’t know much about him. The celebrated American photographer Margaret Bourke-White asked for Janah to accompany her to document the famine in Andhra Pradesh and Mysore for Life magazine. P.C. Joshi, a leading figure of India’s communist movement, asked Janah to accompany him to the famine-stricken Bengal in 1943. His graphic images of heaps of skeletons and a dog devouring human flesh shook everyone. – Read more here.


11 March 2015 | Sunil Janah




10 February 2015 | STRī Avalekha

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20January 2015 | STRī Avalekha


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18 January 2015 | STRī Avalekha

Millennium Post




16 january 2015 | STRī Avalekha





3 January 2015 | Swaraj Archive

The Silent Collector

Swaraj Art Archive houses rare and significant artworks from the 1900s to the 1980s. 

“Noida?” I am questioned by incredulous colleagues when I mention about my impending trip to the Swaraj Art Archive. At a time when south Delhi continues to reign as the undisputed hub of art in the capital, it is somewhat surprising to find an art archive located in this neighbourhood, situated just across the Yamuna. Located in Sector 2, Noida, Swaraj is owned by art collector and philanthropist Vijay Aggarwal. It was started with the intention of documenting, preserving and showcasing Aggarwal’s family collection. – See more at:



24 April 2014 | Sunil Janah

Root Cellar

When American photographer Margaret Bourke-White charted a journey from the US to India in 1945, she sought the company of a particular photographer — Sunil Janah. Perhaps aware of his work, through the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, she called on the then 26-year-old to accompany her to south India. Introduced at the Communist Party of India (CPI) office in Mumbai, the duo would spend months documenting the famine in Andhra Pradesh and Mysore. Their frames would bring the miseries of the region before the nation. – See more at:



29 January 2014 | Sunil Janah

The Rise of the Private Collector

“There are two types of collectors,” the Turkish Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Orhan Pamuk wrote in his 2009 opus, The Museum of Innocence. “The Proud Ones, those pleased to show their collections to the world; and The Bashful Ones, who hide away all they have accumulated.” The Proud, Pamuk’s protagonist Kemal observes, regard a museum as a natural ultimate destination for their collections. “They maintain that whatever a collection’s original purpose, it is, in the end, an enterprise intended for proud display in a museum.” The Bashful, on the other hand, collect purely for the sake of collecting. Pamuk himself turned from Bashful to Proud, thus establishing a third category, when he decided to make his words flesh by building an actual, physical museum; a real-life ode to the one he constructed in his fiction. – See more at:



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