Bharti Kher

The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own | New York, Rockefeller Plaza | bindis on fibreglass | 142 x 456.2 x 195 cm

“Bharti Kher’s works ought to be signposted with mandatory warnings. You will meet with the hazard of disruptive beauty here.”

Ranjit Hoskote, poet, cultural theorist

As ancient symbol of beauty, marital status and spiritual awareness, millions of women across the Indian subcontinent apply the bindi to their foreheads every day. Multi-media conceptual artist Bharti Kher says she began applying bindis to much of her recent work following a revelation in 1995, when she encountered a woman wearing a serpent-shaped bindi on her forehead.

Since then, she has appropriated and redeployed the bindi as powerful signifier, a means of transfiguring and recontextualizing the dreamy and beastly images and objects that populate her dense, swirling sculptures, paintings and installations. Overlaid upon objects big and small, sacred and divine, they invoke a sense of migratory flow, building and dissipating in complex and cosmic rhythms.

Kher’s work often barters in the grotesque: Sometimes the grotesquerie is obvious, even violent; others, it is merely a vague sensation, a subtle, but troubling distortion of the real. As Ranjit Hoskote describes it in the introduction to her 2007 monograph, “[Kher] presents her works as an ongoing phantasmagoria, its fictions delivered through a vivid and hallucinatory realism that is unsettlingly attentive to detail.”  

In 2012, her sculpture of a life-sized, female elephant covered in sperm-shaped bindi, The Skin Speaks a Language Not its Own (2006), was dubbed by Financial Times art critic, Jackie Wullschlager, as the only “iconic” piece of art to emerge from a spate of major 21st Century Indian art surveys. Along with fellow Indian artist, Rina Banerjee, Art + Auction named Kher one of the world’s “50 Next Most Collectible Artists” in June, 2012.

Kher was born and raised in London, where her she grew up playing among the rich, colorful tapestries of her parents’ sari shop. She moved to New Delhi in 1993 after studying at Middlesex Polytechnic, in London, then studying fine art and painting in the Foundation Course in Art & Design at Newcastle Polytechnic. She still lives and works in New Delhi, and is widely recognized today as one of India’s boldest, most important contemporary artists.  

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Works by Bharti Kher

Specialists in South Asian Modern+Contemporary Art at Christie's

  • Deepanjana D. Klein PhD
    • South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art
    • New York
    • International Head of Department
    • +1 212 636 2189
  • Sonal Singh

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