Chris Ofili

Chris Ofili rose to fame in the late ‘80s as a figurehead of the Young British Artists. He was the first Black artist to win the Turner Prize, and throughout his career, his art has challenged and changed perceptions in the art world and beyond.

Why did a portrait of the Virgin Mary outrage Rudy Giuliani? 

When Chris Ofili’s famous painting was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999, the then mayor threatened to evict the museum and withdraw all its funding. 

He considered it sacrilegious because it featured magazine cut outs of vulvas and, of course, a bare breast made of elephant dung. 

A painting that depicts the Virgin Mary on an orange background, surrounded by various images and materials, including elephant dung, in a textured and layered composition

The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996

Artwork of female figure adorned with intricate patterns, vibrant colours, and various textured materials

Afrodizzia, 1996

Luckily, the art world stood with Chris. They recognised the subversive commentary on modern life in the altar boy turned punk artist’s paintings.

when I was younger I was more part of a system… my enquiry’s different.

These days, Chris’s work doesn’t cause quite so much controversy. Not just because the world has changed, but because Chris’s paintings helped change it.

A painting of central figure, surrounded by intricate patterns and vibrant colours, using acrylic paint, oil pastel, glitter, and other materials on canvas.

The Adoration of Captain Shit, 1998

Portrait of a woman's face in centre, surrounded by teardrop-like forms made of resin, with affixed collaged images and additional materials

No Woman, No Cry, 1998

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