Lot 131
  • 131

CHRIS OFILI | Lovers Touches

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Chris Ofili
  • Lovers Touches
  • signed, titled and dated 2003-2004 on the reverse
  • watercolour, gouache and gold leaf on paper
  • 130.2 by 100.3 cm. 51 1/4 by 39 1/2 in.


Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Acquired from the above by David Teiger in 2004


Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Curry Expo, March - April 2004


Colour: The colour in the printed catalogue is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly deeper and richer in the original. The catalogue illustration fails to convey the iridescent nature of the metallic paint. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The sheet is hinged verso to the backing board in numerous places and the sheet undulates slightly. The top and bottom edges of the sheet are unevenly cut. The artist's seam running across the center is slightly visible. There are artist's pinholes in isolates places to the extreme edges. Extremely close inspection reveals some minute specks of loss to the extreme edges of the artist's frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Born in 1968, the prodigious Nigerian-British painter Chris Ofili rose to prominence in the nineties for his kaleidoscopic, vibrant and complex paintings that skilfully merge abstraction and figuration. Employing a diverse range of aesthetic and cultural sources, including modernist painting, Zimbabwean cave drawings and the tropical landscapes of Trinidad, Ofili’s work explores race, identity politics and cross cultural critiques through a visual language that is deeply symbolic and enigmatic. Thus Ofili has adapted “aesthetic strategies that reveal happy accidents in the traffic of visual interculturation” (Kobena Mercer cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Chris Ofili, 1998, p. 15). After training at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, the artist was awarded a travelling scholarship to Zimbabwe, an experience that profoundly affected Ofili’s own philosophy and painterly technique. Since then, he has received continuous accolades including the revered Turner Prize in 1998 and an invitation to represent Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. In 2016 Ofili was awarded a CBE by the Queen, cementing his reputation not only as one of the most important artists in Great Britain, but also one of the most significant within the global theatre of contemporary art.  The present works Lovers Touches and Cherchez La Femme Calypso and Odysseus were both executed in 2004 during one of the most prolific periods of Ofili’s career, and only one year after his widely-acclaimed exhibition at the Biennale. They offer brilliant examples of the artist’s exceptional work on paper and his virtuosity in the mediums of watercolour, gouache and ink. Indeed, the luminous compositions offer hallucinatory visions of romance and warmth through spectacular technique, and this level of artistic excellence is undoubtedly intrinsic to Ofili’s greater oeuvre. In Lovers Touches saturated reds and greens explode against a black landscape as two figures embrace in a seductive kiss, their bodies as beautiful and dark as the night-time sky behind them. Here Ofili’s visual orchestration is broken down to its most rudimentary, and its style recalls the artist’s earlier use of collaged magazine cut-outs, as well as the aesthetics of African textiles. Cherchez La Femme Calypso and Odysseus also depicts two lovers in a sea of swirling abstractions, yet here temptation replaces physical touch as the nude female figure enticingly holds grapes above her mouth in a gesture of allure and invitation. As the ubiquitous symbol for temptation, the snake obstructs the space between the man and woman, rendering the electrifying blue scene frozen in a moment of intense desire. Significantly, Cherchez La Femme Calypso and Odysseus is part of Ofili’s celebrated Blue Riders series composed of exquisite midnight hues and profound tonal depths of blue. Of the colour, Ofili asserts, “Blue… was a difficult colour to work with… To work exclusively with blue was the biggest challenge… I was trying to find new ways to use a colour to the point of saturation, to the point where you don’t see it” (Chris Ofili cited in: Peter Doig, Carol Becker and David Adjaye, Chris Ofili, New York 2009, pp. 243-44).

As one of the most innovative artists of his generation, Ofili effortlessly transcends social and philosophical boundaries in his dreamlike compositions that in turn offer universal symbols of black power, as well as compelling images of male and female sexuality. Examining and challenging conventional ideals of beauty, black culture, history and exoticism, the atmospheric nocturnal landscapes of Lovers Touches and Cherchez La Femme Calypso and Odysseus stand as magnificent encapsulations of this extraordinary artist’s technical and painterly genius.