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Indian painting on homosexuality breaks auction record in UK

'Two Men in Benares', a 1980s painting by Indian contemporary artist Bhupen Khakhar has set a new auction record for the painter by selling at a whopping $3.2 million in London.

The sale took place at the Sotheby's auction house on Monday. Going under the hammer was the "Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection", an offering of 29 artworks from one of the finest collections of 20th century Indian art in private hands.

When Khakhar (1934-2003) first unveiled 'Two Men in Benares' in Mumbai in 1986, he became the first Indian artist to freely disclose his sexual orientation through his work.

The painting shows two naked men in embrace. It "is the most explicit of what the artist himself called his 'efforts to come out in open', and to create a new iconography of homosexual love", Sotheby's said on its website.

Khakhar was India's pioneering openly gay artist.

Widely considered among the artist's best works, the painting later starred in Tate Modern's 2016 'You Can't Please All exhibition of Khakhar's work, the first retrospective of an Indian artist to be held at the institution, Sotheby's said.

Other works of art at the auction included MF Husain's 'Marathi Woman' (1950) that sold for $553,146; a rare figurative work by Ram Kumar, 'Untitled (Man and Woman Holding Hands)' painted as a present for the artist's wife in 1953, sold for $659,960.

The 'Anatomy of that Old Story' (1970) from Rameshwar Broota's 'Ape' series also sold for $537,887.

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