Chris Ofili Image via Time Magazine Chris Ofili
Image via Time Magazine

Ghanaian-British Architect David Adjaye, who has worked with Chris Ofili, commented on his contemporary's ability to  "speak about contemporary issues through the romance of painting."

He has "positioned himself as an artist who could redefine art practice by affirming the relevance of painting for the 21st century."

Controversial Ofili caused uproar when he included elephant dung in his portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a black woman. Ofili attaches the lumps to the canvas or uses the dung to support the painting whilst on display. The Holy Virgin Mary  resulted in a lawsuit between the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. As well as the elephant dung, close-ups of female genitalia taken from pornographic magazines were shaped into cherubs evoking the Immaculate conception and the Assumption of Mary. David Walsh now owns the painting and it is on display at Tansania's Museum of Old and New Art.

Chris Ofili, The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996 Image via Saatchi Gallery Chris Ofili, The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996
Image via Saatchi Gallery

His provocative works convey such themes as black identity through the use of racial stereotypes. Ofili encompasses a wide range of cultures in his works including jazz and hip hop music, pornography and alongside Biblical references.

Ofili received the Turner Prize in 1998. In 2000 his works became part of the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.