With her newly minted title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Bharti Kher joins the likes of Satyajit Ray, Shivaji Ganesan, Aishwarya Rai, and more recently, Ritu Kumar, Kalki Koechlin and her husband artist Subodh Gupta. It’s a recognition from the French Ministry of Culture of an artist’s influence on the global stage. Sculptor, painter and installation artist, Kher received the award from the French ambassador in Delhi and said, “Making and looking at art is so much joy. I created with my hands the magic that I so wanted to see existing in the world. This decision I made at six, that it was either art or joining the circus.”
Kher’s work, ‘TrainD To Kill 1’, was sold for over Rs 1 crore at the SaffronArt auction in February this year. It’s a hypnotic creation of bindis arranged on a wood panel. Kher uses bindis as the basic unit of colour in her art and makes patterns and textures with them on installations, panels and mirrors. The most instantly recognised of her works is the 2006 fibreglass sculpture ‘The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own’, which is a life-sized figure of a pale Asian elephant with her head resting on the floor in a disturbingly vulnerable pose. The artist’s fascination with depicting large animals exposed in some tragic way is evident in another sculpture, ‘An Absence of Assignable Cause’, of the heart of a blue sperm whale, its veins and arteries coloured in with bindis. The titles of her work are just as interesting. Our favourite: ‘Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Dragons Because You Are Crunchy And Taste Good With Ketchup’.