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Wasafiri - Chris Ofili review

Review relating to an exhibition, 1999
Published by: Wasafiri
Year published: 1999
Number of pages: 2

image of Wasafiri - Chris Ofili review

Chris Ofili, exhibition review in Wasafiri, No. 29 Spring 1999, pp. 79 - 80

In his perceptive and keenly observed review of Ofili’s 1998 touring exhibition (the show for which Ofili secured his 1998 Turner Prize nimination), Richard Dyer briskly reminded (or made the reader aware of) the artist’s rapid rise to success and good fortune: “Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1993 with an MA in painting, Ofili has been courted by the upper echelons of the art establishment – Victoria Miro, Charles Saatchi, the Serpentine Gallery – and starting even while still at college he was a prize winner in the Whitworth Young Contemporaries, an exhibitor in the BP Portrait award and later in the prestigious John Moores Liverpool Exhibition.”

Dyer concluded his review as follows, “Perhaps if [Ofili] had not – and it has to be said, rather cleverly – grafted the whole shaky edifice of ‘racial identity’ onto his fundamentally formalist paintings we may never have seen his work in a major public gallery, and he certainly would not have won the Turner Prize; not because of the lack of any intrinsic quality in the paintings, but because at present the art establishment is only willing to recognise the work of black and Asian artists in Britain if it fulfils the dual and surprisingly non-contradictory demands of what can only be described as the cultural neo-colonialism of a post-socialist, New Labour Britain and the ‘ethnically authentic’ and identity-centred agenda of multicultural arts funding and patronage.”

This was one of an enormous amount of press coverage that Ofili secured, around the time of his Turner Prize nomination, and in the days and months following his victory. Ofili was the first Black British artist to win the Turner Prize, though much of the press coverage drew little or no attention to this, preferring to focus on other aspects of the artist’s life and practice. Monochrome small reproductions of two Ofili paintings accompanied the review by Dyer. A substantial reproduction of an Ofili painting - a detail - adorned the cover of this issue of Wasafiri. It was She, 1997, Acrylic, oil, resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on canvas, 8 x 6 ft.

Related people

»  Chris Ofili

Born, 1968 in Manchester, UK

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Serpentine Gallery

London, United Kingdom

»  Southampton City Art Gallery

Southampton, United Kingdom

»  Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester

Manchester, United Kingdom