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Chris Ofili: Wikis


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Chris Ofili
Birth name Chris Ofili
Born 1968 (1968)
Nationality British
Field Painting
Training Chelsea School of Art
Works No Woman No Cry (1998),
Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (1998),
The Upper Room (2002)
Awards 1998 Turner Prize

Chris Ofili (born 10 October 1968) is a Turner Prize winning British painter best known for artworks referencing aspects of his Nigerian heritage, particularly his incorporation of elephant dung. He was one of the Young British Artists, and is now based in Trinidad.



Ofili was born in Manchester.[1] He completed a foundation course in art at Tameside College in Ashton-under-Lyne and studied in London, at the Chelsea School of Art from 1988-91 and at the Royal College of Art from 1991-93.

Ofili was established through exhibitions by Charles Saatchi at his gallery in north London and the travelling exhibition Sensation (1997) becoming recognised as one of the few British artists of African/Caribbean descent to break through as a member of the Young British Artists. Ofili has also had numerous solo shows since the early 1990s including the Serpentine Gallery. In 1998, Ofili won the Turner Prize, and in 2003 he was selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale of that year, where his work for the British Pavilion was done in collaboration with the architect David Adjaye.

No Woman No Cry by Chris Ofili (1998). The painting stands on two dried, varnished lumps of elephant dung. A third is used as the pendant of the necklace.

In 1992 he won a scholarship which allowed him to travel to Zimbabwe. Ofili, who is of Nigerian descent, studied cave paintings there which had some effect on his style. Though Ofili's detractors often state that he "splatters"[2] elephant dung on his pictures, this is inaccurate: he sometimes applies it directly to the canvas in the form of dried spherical lumps, and sometimes, in the same form, uses it as foot-like supports on which the paintings stand.

Ofili's painting also reference blaxploitation films and gangsta rap, seeking to question racial and sexual stereotypes in a humorous way. His work is often built up in layers of paint, resin, glitter, dung (mainly elephant) and other materials to create a collage.

Ofili has been the prime mover behind the Freeness Project.[3][4] This involved the coming together of artists, producers and musicians of minority ethnic groups (Asian, African and Chinese) in an attempt to expose the music that may be unheard in other spaces. Freeness allowed the creativity of today's British ethnic minority artists to be heard. The result of months of tours to ten cities in the UK resulted in Freeness Volume 1 - a compilation of works that were shown during the tour.

Ofili is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery, London and David Zwirner, New York.



The Holy Virgin Mary and Mayor Giuliani

One of his paintings, The Holy Virgin Mary, a depiction of the Virgin Mary, was at issue in a lawsuit between the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art when it was exhibited there in 1999 as a part of the "Sensation" exhibit. The painting depicted a black African Mary surrounded by images from blaxploitation movies and close-ups of female genitalia cut from pornographic magazines, and elephant dung. These were formed into shapes reminiscent of the cherubim and seraphim commonly depicted in images of the Immaculate conception and the Assumption of Mary. Following the scandal surrounding this painting, Bernard Goldberg ranked Ofili #86 in 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. Red Grooms showed his support of the artist by purchasing one of Ofili's paintings in 1999, even after Giuliani famously exclaimed, “There’s nothing in the First Amendment that supports horrible and disgusting projects!”[5]

The Upper Room and the Tate Gallery

The Upper Room is an installation of 13 paintings of rhesus macaque monkeys by Ofili in a specially-designed room. It was bought by the Tate Gallery in 2005 and caused controversy as Ofili was on the board of the Tate Trustees at the time of the purchase. In 2006 the Charity Commission censured the Tate for this purchase.


  1. ^ He attended St. Pius the Tenth High School for Boys, and then Xaverian College in Victoria Park, Manchester. Chris Ofili Brief biography on artnet. Retrieval Date: 26 July 2007.
  2. ^ The Independent, Feb 27, 2000
  3. ^ Freeness' Project
  4. ^ The Guardian, Jan 13, 2005
  5. ^ Robert Ayers (November 20, 2007), Red Grooms’s Chris Ofili Drawing, ARTINFO,, retrieved 2008-04-17 

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