Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Chris Ofili Paintings of Dung-Adorned Monkeys Dazzle in London

These days, the transition from enfant terrible to establishment figure can be swift.

When ``Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection'' was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999, New York reverberated with shock. The most scandalous exhibit was Chris Ofili's painting,``The Holy Virgin Mary'' (1996), decorated with dried elephant dung and adorned with pornographic clippings. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani denounced it and a vandal attacked it.

Now, the most talked-about exhibit in the new BP British Art Displays at London's Tate Britain is Ofili's ``The Upper Room,'' a self-contained installation of painting and architecture on the theme of the Last Supper. Christ and the disciples are represented by 13 paintings of rhesus macaque monkeys, resting on balls of the artist's favored exotic manure.

This time, there has been no mention of the word blasphemy. The only discussion centers on whether it was proper for the Tate to buy a costly piece from an artist who also sits on the museum's board of trustees.

Story here.

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