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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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Saint Lucian Blue Two by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliSaint Lucian Blue Two, 2006Leather on cardboard
278 x 200 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Enquire about this work
Nude Study in Blue by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliNude Study in Blue, 2006Oil on canvas
50.5 x 40.5 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Enquire about this work
Silver Moon by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliSilver Moon, 2005Bronze, nickel
201 x 137 x 175 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Enquire about this work
Batotelli (Sweet Cocktail) 4 by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliBatotelli (Sweet Cocktail) 4, 2014Watercolour and charcoal on paper
24 x 16 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire about this work
Paradise by Night by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliParadise by Night, 2010A portfolio of 10 etchings
51 x 71 cm
Paragon Enquire about this work
Study for Ovid-Windfall by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliStudy for Ovid-Windfall, 2012Charcoal, watercolour and oil on paper
48.5 x 32 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire about this work
Ovid-Destiny by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliOvid-Destiny, 2011-2012Oil and charcoal on linen
310 x 200 x 4 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire about this work
Blossom by Chris Ofili contemporary artwork
Chris OfiliBlossom, BlossomOil, polyester resin, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on linen
243.8 x 182.8 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire about this work

Chris Ofili Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, On Painting: Art Basel Online at David Zwirner, New York
Closed
20–25 March 2020 Group Exhibition On Painting: Art Basel Online David Zwirner, Online Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Chris Ofili, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, Affinities at David Zwirner, London
Closed
30 August–21 September 2019 Chris Ofili, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan Affinities David Zwirner, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Basel Online Viewing Room at David Zwirner, New York
Closed
13–23 June 2019 Group Exhibition Basel Online Viewing Room David Zwirner, Online Only

Chris Ofili Represented By

Chris Ofili In Ocula Magazine

Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House Ocula Report Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House By Jareh Das, London

Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature. Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational...

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The most searched artists on Ocula now Ocula Photolog The most searched artists on Ocula now

A selection of this week's most searched artists on Ocula.com 

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Chris Ofili In Related Press

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What to See in Art Galleries Right Now Related Press What to See in Art Galleries Right Now 29 May 2019, The New York Times

What to See in Art Galleries Right Now: Sanya Kantarovsky’s darkly funny eccentrics; Firelei Báez’s empowered mythologies; Chris Ofili’s Calypso; Tino Sehgal’s interpreters; and Carolee Schneemann’s cat collaborations.

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Lisa Brice, Peter Doig, and Chris Ofili Bring Trinidad to New York Related Press Lisa Brice, Peter Doig, and Chris Ofili Bring Trinidad to New York 22 September 2017, Dodie Kazanjian

A rare and beautiful Trinidad moment is happening in three New York City galleries. It started on Wednesday night when Chris Ofili opened with his brave and profound new work at David Zwirner on 19th Street. The next night brought Peter Doig's tour de force new paintings and drawings uptown at Michael Werner Gallery—whose rooms were once...

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Must see Beijing exhibition: Peter Doig at Faurschou Foundation Related Press Must see Beijing exhibition: Peter Doig at Faurschou Foundation 17 May 2017, Ocula

Faurschou Foundation Beijing is presenting the first solo exhibition in China dedicated to Scottish artist Peter Doig (b. 1959, Edinburgh), one of today's most significant painters. Entitled Cabins and Canoes: The Unreasonable Silence of the World, the exhibition runs until 24 June 2017. Unsurprisingly, given its title, the exhibition at...

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Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic review - totally tropical tapestry Related Press Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic review - totally tropical tapestry 26 April 2017, The Guardian

Larger than life, the women dance round the walls. Grey upon grey, picked out with darker accents and the soft sheen and sinuous billowing of drapery, the glimmering whiteness of bangles and anklets, necklaces and earrings, hairdos and turbans, the painted chorus of 27 dancers parade across the walls of the Sunley Room at London’s National...

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Chris Ofili In Video & Audio

Episode 11 | Chris Ofili and Emily Wilson Related Video & Audio Episode 11 | Chris Ofili and Emily Wilson 12 November 2019, David Zwirner

An epic live episode of Dialogues. In journeying deep into Homer's Odyssey in front of an audience at David Zwirner's 69 th Street gallery in New York, artist Chris Ofili and classicist Emily Wilson encounter religion, art, personal history, gender issues, Trinidad, Greece, truth, lies. Featuring a live reading from Wilson, the first woman...

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