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A young black man with a closely shaved head and beard looks directly at the viewer.

Chris Ofili

Photo © Grant Delin

Top 5 Reasons to Get Excited About Chris Ofili

by Sophia Conforti

For many, Chris Ofili is considered one of the most influential contemporary artists today. Before we unveil Chris Ofili's design for the MCA’s new restaurant in 2017, here are five reasons to get excited about the partnership:

1. Ofili is a recipient of the esteemed Turner Prize.

Critics have positioned Ofili as a prominent contemporary artist who has reaffirmed the relevance of painting in the 21st century. Ofili received the Turner Prize, the United Kingdom's most prestigious art award, for his work No Woman No Cry in 1998, and was the first painter to receive the award since Howard Hodgkin in 1985.

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2. Ofili embraces and draws on a wide range of sources.

In both his paintings and paper works, Ofili engages with the intersection of popular culture and high art, as well as history, race, and political and social imperatives. Chicago-based artist Kerry James Marshall has said of Ofili's work, “Not only are [Ofili's] pictures uncompromising in their highly stylized treatment of black figures, he is also relentless in his decorative and referential excesses.”

3. Ofili’s life in Trinidad inspires his work.

Since moving to Trinidad in 2005, Ofili has incorporated the island's natural beauty and cultural tropes into his work. Architect David Adjaye—a close friend and collaborator of Ofili's, who has also designed some of his homes—has observed that the artist's time in Trinidad has been remarkable for Ofili and his work, saying: “He asks questions about our time through intoxicating visual compositions that examine peripheral modernities and enable us to make sense of our world.”

4. Ofili’s work isn’t often in Chicago.

In 2010, The Arts Club of Chicago hosted Ofili's first Chicago exhibition and the first major exhibition of his watercolor and pencil drawings, Chris Ofili: Afrotranslinear. Ofili's collaboration with the MCA, however, establishes a permanent presence in Chicago for the artist.

5. Ofili is continually experimenting with his art.

Ofili uses a variety of applied textures and media in his work. Most recently, Ofili has turned to tapestry for the first time. The artist is collaborating with Dovecot Tapestry Studio, whose weavers are translating his design into a hand-woven work. Commissioned by the Clothworkers' Company, Ofili's tapestry will be unveiled at London’s National Gallery in April 2017.