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b. 1968, United Kingdom

Chris Ofili Biography

Chris Ofili is best known for his mix of religious and secular elements in work that complicates distinctions between the sacred and the profane. While his paintings and works on paper often comprise an assortment of materials—from paint, gold leaf, resin, glitter and map pins to elements of collage—it is the artist's use of elephant dung that has been the cause of much debate. Ofili's use of the material in The Holy Virgin Mary (1996), along with his depiction of a Black Madonna surrounded by pictures of female genitalia sourced from adult magazines, became the subject of a large controversy. Following its inclusion in the Brooklyn Museum leg of the Sensation exhibition (1999), the work incited condemnation from New York City's then-mayor Rudy Giuliani as well as a series of protests in the United States.

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Back home across the Atlantic, Ofili—a member of the Young British Artists (YBAs) alongside figures such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas—was no stranger to controversy, having established himself amidst a milieu of Britain's most contentious art-world agitators. And yet in spite of the controversies Ofili was awarded the Turner Prize in 1998 as a mark of his contribution to contemporary art. He was the first Black artist to win the prestigious award. In 2003 Ofili was chosen to represent Great Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale in Italy, where he mounted 'Within Reach'—a suite of paintings set in an immersive kaleidoscopic space designed by the Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye.

The artist's earlier works—produced during and soon after his student years at Chelsea College of Arts and the Royal College of Art in London—were intricately patterned, vibrantly multi-coloured and textured abstract compositions. His later work, produced from the mid-1990s onwards, marked the creation of his now-signature style of figurative painting, fusing influences from a variety of sources including religious iconography, 'Blaxploitation' cinema, jazz, hip hop, comics, African cave painting (inspired by a trip to Zimbabwe in 1992) and the work of Romantic poet William Blake. Ofili deployed this diverse array of source material alongside his heady mix of media to create complex and challenging images of Blackness in both its contemporary and historical manifestations. As an artist of Nigerian ancestry and a member of the African diaspora, his forays into the intricacies of identity can be read as both a personal meditation and a political commentary.

Following his move to Trinidad in 2005, Ofili created the 'Blue Rider' series, named after the short-lived 20th-century German Expressionist group. Much like its namesake, the series is a synthesis of visual, musical and folk art influences. Ofili's large blue and silver paintings of this period marked a significant change in his practice, seeing him adopt a darker, more pared-back palette, evoking dreamlike scenes set in the moonlit landscapes of his new Caribbean environment.

Chris Ofili's works are represented in prominent collections internationally, including the British Museum, London; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since 2005, Ofili has been living and working between Port of Spain, Trinidad; London; and Brooklyn.

Tendai John Mutambu | Ocula | 2017

Chris Ofili Featured Artworks

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Afternoon with La Soufrière (prelude 2) by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Chris OfiliAfternoon with La Soufrière (prelude 2), 2021Watercolour, pastel, gold leaf, ink and charcoal on paper
38.7 x 25.9 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Saint Lucian Blue Two by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork painting
Chris OfiliSaint Lucian Blue Two, 2006Leather on cardboard
278 x 200 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (Saint 8) by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Chris OfiliUntitled (Saint 8), 2019Watercolour and gold leaf on paper
25.8 x 19.5 cm
David Zwirner Contact Gallery
Kiss (Odysseus & Calypso) 7 by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Chris OfiliKiss (Odysseus & Calypso) 7, 2019Watercolour, gold leaf, and charcoal on paper
26 x 39.4 cm
David Zwirner Contact Gallery
Night Kiss 5 by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Chris OfiliNight Kiss 5, 2019Watercolour, pastel, gold leaf, and charcoal on paper
26 x 39.4 cm
David Zwirner Contact Gallery
Nude Study in Blue by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork painting
Chris OfiliNude Study in Blue, 2006Oil on canvas
50.5 x 40.5 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Contact Gallery
Silver Moon by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork sculpture
Chris OfiliSilver Moon, 2005Bronze, nickel
201 x 137 x 175 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Contact Gallery
Paradise by Night by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork print
Chris OfiliParadise by Night, 2010A portfolio of 10 etchings
51 x 71 cm
Paragon Contact Gallery

Chris Ofili Recent Exhibitions

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Chris Ofili Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris
Paragon contemporary art gallery in London, United Kingdom Paragon London
Victoria Miro contemporary art gallery in Wharf Road, London, United Kingdom Victoria Miro London, New York, Venice

Chris Ofili In Ocula Magazine

In Ocula Advisory

Chris Ofili In Related Press

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Chris Ofili In Video & Audio

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