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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Chris Ofili
B.1968
AFRODIZZIA
signed, titled and dated 1996 on the stretcher
acrylic, oil, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on linen
canvas: 95 15/16 x 71 15/16 in. 243.8 x 182.8 cm.
overall: 99 1/4 x 71 15/16 in. 252.1 x 182.9 cm.
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Provenance

Victoria Miro Gallery, London
The Saatchi Collection, London
Phillips de Pury & Co., New York, May 12, 2005, Lot 42
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Southampton, Southampton City Art Gallery; London, Serpentine Gallery; Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester, Chris Ofili, April - November 1998, pl. 14, illustrated (shown at Southampton only)
London, Royal Academy of Arts; Berlin, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart; New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, September 1997 - January 2000, cat. no. 69, p. 130, illustrated in color
Liverpool, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Remix: Contemporary Art & Pop, May - August 2002, cat. no. 2, p. 67, illustrated in color

Literature

Robert Timms, Alexandra Bradley and Vicky Hayward, eds., Young British Art: The Saatchi Decade, London, 1999, p. 397, illustrated in color
Coco Fusco, "Captain Shit and Other Allegories of Black Stardom: the Work of Chris Ofili," NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art (U.S.A.), no. 10, Spring - Summer 1999, p. 42 (text)
Frank Rich, "Pull the Plug on Brooklyn," The New York Times, October 9, 1999, p. 17 (text)
Andrew Grossman, "Blasphemy, Pornography, Dung: Sensation," The Dartmouth Review, October 12, 1999 (text)
Peter Doig, Carol Becker, David Adjaye, Okwui Enwezor, Kara Walker, Thelma Golden and Cameron Shaw, Chris Ofili, New York, 2009, p. 45, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

A scintillating cornucopia of jewel-like dots and glitter, interlaced by collaged faces with cloud-like afros and mounds of signature elephant dung, Chris Ofili’s Afrodizzia is the ultimate manifestation of the artist’s epoch-defining dialogue between black identity, stereotype and popular culture. At once a glorious psychedelic celebration of ethnicity and exploration of race, this sensational standing canvas plays literally upon the notion of Afrocentricity which proliferated following the international Civil Rights movement during the 1960s and 1970s. As Ofili recalls, “sometimes… I’m just blindingly obvious, an example being Afrodizzia, 1996. Like, bang, there it is. Afro head – celebration of Afrocentricity.” (the artist in conversation with Ekow Eshun in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain, Chris Ofili, 2010, p. 98) As a painting made famous by its provenance and inclusion in the 1997 ground-breaking exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, opening at the Royal Academy of Art in London, Afrodizzia belongs among the most famous and iconic works of Ofili’s entire career. Just two years after this piece was executed, Ofili’s ascent to art stardom was truly cemented: in 1998 Ofili won the Turner Prize – the first black artist to ever do so – and staged his first major solo museum show at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Bursting with kaleidoscopic color and frenetic energy, Afrodizzia truly resonates with the global excitement surrounding the artist at this pivotal moment in Ofili’s career.

In Afrodizzia, Ofili has collaged a symphony of individual faces that punctuate a confetti of intricate patternation.  Perfectly silhouetting and sitting atop each head like a halo, Ofili has adorned his pantheon of black faces with hand-painted Afros. Notable figures and celebrities of recent decades are here recognizable; from Louis Armstrong and James Brown to Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur; Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela to Spike Lee and Will Smith, Ofili has culled their likenesses from magazines to create a palimpsest that melds sports heroes with icons of funk and hip-hop culture.  Interwoven within decadent layers of resin, glitter and map pins, Ofili's resplendent surface is at once reminiscent of African fabrics whilst also reflecting the cultural climate of 1960s psychedelics, 1970s disco culture and the influence of 1970s Blaxploitation movies such as Super Fly, Shaft and Foxy Brown. Utterly exuding a sense of liberated celebration, Ofili fluidly captures the essence of a style of black empowerment that burgeoned during the second half of the Twentieth Century. This cultural influence was a creative driving force for Ofili during the mid-1990s: “when I look at paintings like… Afrodizzia, 1996, the subject-matter within them – such as the celebration of an Afrocentric approach to life stemming from the 1960s and 70s – were very important to me at that time… bringing the paintings into the world has made me a different person.” (the artist in conversation with Thelma Golden in David Adjaye, et al., Chris Ofili, New York, 2009, p. 237)

Propping up the painting and interspersed within the composition, sculptural mounds of elephant dung encased in resin appear as glistening, exotic rocks. Spelled out in vibrantly colored glass pin heads, the names Miles Davis, Cassius Clay, Tito Jackson, Diana Ross and James Brown adorn these glossy spheres. Not only do these names represent culturally important individuals, they also represent heroic figures in the fields of sport and music – the most successful avenues for black social mobility during the years surrounding the Civil Rights movement and thereafter. Nonetheless, aside from delivering a who’s who of Afro-culture, Ofili simultaneously rebuffs celebrity and disintegrates identity through the uniform presence of the Afro in an expression of universal respect. As the artist describes, “people normally come up to the paintings and go ‘Oh right, who can I recognize, yeah, got that’ but in a way the Afro is supposed to suck all that recognition out really and give them all the same hairstyle, this one Afro. It’s not about identifying faces, it’s about dissolving faces.” (the artist cited in Kodwo Eshun, "Plug into Ofili," in Exh. Cat., Southampton, Southampton City Art Gallery (and travelling), Chris Ofili, 1998, n.p.)

Reminiscent of the improvisational characteristics of Jazz music and the cut-and-paste sampling of hip-hop, ripples of psychedelic dots unfold in spasmodic patches and aberrant lines to destabilize pictorial space. The pulsating fields of dots owe their presence to the extraordinary cave paintings in the Matapos Hills, which Ofili witnessed on a formative trip to Zimbabwe in 1992. Recounting this experience, Ofili recalls, “I imagined them painting this great wall of optical, shimmering dots to the rhythm of chants and drumbeats, all of which got condensed into each dot.” (the artist quoted in Adrian Searle, "Going through the motions," The Independent, London, December 27, 1994) During this same visit, Ofili was struck by the awesome power of the natural landscape and looked to inject the raw energy of his surroundings into his work: Ofili applied some dried elephant dung to one of his canvases and thus instigated a marriage of materials that has since become a defining element of the artist’s oeuvre. Such masterful handling of disparate materials combined with the glorious candy-colored composition mark Afrodizzia as one of most instantly recognizable icons and archetypal works of art, not only of Ofili’s acclaimed practice, but of the Young British Artists that comprise the Sensation generation.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York