Chris Ofili

Ackermans Fine Art

Chris Ofili

Chris Ofili poses in front of his work at the Venice Biennale on June
12, 2003. Ofili, selected by the British Council, is representing the
Great Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

British (b. 1968)

Born in Manchester, England, Chris Ofili studied at the Chelsea School of Art from 1988-91 and the Royal College of Art from 1991-93.  Ofili was influenced by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Philip Guston and Georg Baselitz as well as Peter Doig whom he met while attending school.  His art which reflects African music, culture, religion and textiles began when he was awarded a scholarship to Zimbabwe.

Ofili’s art form is often seen as very meticulous and complex through his experimentation with African textiles and most notably elephant dung, for which he has become famous. He uses this to explore ideals, black history and self-awareness.  Ofili’s use of elephant dung, which is chemically treated to avoid putrefaction, he states “Somehow it makes the painting feel more relaxed, instead of being pinned upon the wall like its being crucified.”

In recent years, Chris Ofili was involved with the Freeness Project consisting of musicians and artists from minority ethnic groups.  His worked has caused controversy.  In 1999 Ofili’s painting title ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’ was part of an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art which led to a lawsuit between the museum and Mayor Giuliani due to its depiction of the Virgin Mary.  The painting is now owned by Davis Walsh and hangs in the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania.  Ofili’s work has been exhibited at the Walker Art Center, the Arts Club of Chicago, Kestnergesellschaft in Hanover, Germany, and numerous others.  His most extensive exhibition was at the Tate Britain in 2010.  Chris Ofili currently works and resides in Port of Spain, Trinidad.