Collections> Browse Chris Ofili

Collections> Browse Chris Ofili

Chris Ofili
Holdings (10)
6 gouaches/watercolors, 1 painting, 2 edition prints/proofs, 1 internet art

Wikipedia About Chris Ofili

Christopher Ofili, known as Chris Ofili (born 10 October 1968), is a Turner Prize-winning Nigerian/British painter best known for artworks making reference to aspects of his Nigerian heritage, particularly his incorporation of elephant dung. He was one of the Young British Artists. Since 2005, Ofili has been living and working in Trinidad, where he currently resides in Port of Spain. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Chris Ofili, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

The paintings Chris Ofili made while studying at London’s Royal College of Art owed an evident debt to the graffiti-influenced work of one of his heroes, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Yet Ofili had developed a deliciously decorative repertoire of his own by the time his paintings were first seen in an American museum as part of the Walker Art Center’s 1995 exhibition “Brilliant!” New Art from London. In his fondness for absurd caricatures, he revels in an ethnically acute aesthetic realm opened up by David Hammons, whose 1983 Bliz-aard Ball Sale, in which he peddled snowballs on the street, even inspired Ofili to “sample” it, as he calls it, a decade later in his own Shit Sale. Attending street markets in Berlin and London in 1993, Ofili presented a display of the balls of elephant dung that he would begin to incorporate into his paintings later that year.

Ofili makes paintings that are rarely earnest or partisan but wily, confident, and playful. His canvases dazzle optically, caricaturing the look of a colonial textile or an aboriginal cave wall. But they also meddle with cultural stereotypes of ethnicity and sense of “political correctness,” depicting, for instance, outrageous Afro-haired superheroes and supervixens. As the artist commented in 1995: “It’s what people want from black artists. We’re the voodoo king, the voodoo queen, the witch doctor, the drug dealer, the magicien de la terre. The exotic, the decorative. I’m giving them all of that, but it’s packaged slightly differently.”1

Third Eye Vision (1999) shares its name with a 1998 album by the San Francisco–based hip-hop act Hieroglyphics. With its apparent adoption yet gruff derision of racial archetypes, hip-hop culture is central to Ofili’s lexicon. Irreverent rhymes, cheeky remixes, looped samples, and scavenged break beats are all concepts he has transcribed into his painting. The title recalls the supernatural powers of sight and psychic ability ascribed to the Hindu deity Shiva. Yet the painting seems to gently mock this conflation of faith and mysticism, as it perches on its support of two bead-festooned dung balls with a swagger, leaning against the wall with palpable cockiness.

  1. Chris Ofili, interview with Walker research fellow Marcelo Spinelli, “Decorative Beauty Was a Taboo Thing,” in Richard Flood, ed., “Brilliant!” New Art from London, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1995), 67.

Andrews, Max. “Chris Ofili.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

© 2005 Walker Art Center