Chris Ofili (b. 1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Chris Ofili (b. 1968)

Black Grapes

Chris Ofili (b. 1968)
Black Grapes
felt tip, gouache, Indian ink and gold leaf on paper
55 x 39 3/8in. (139.7 x 100cm.)
Executed in 2004
Victoria Miro Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
D. Adjaye, P. Doig, O. Enwezor, T. Golden & K. Walker, Chris Ofili, New York 2009 (illustrated in colour, p. 173).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

TG: Iridescence is always very important in your work and your surfaces sort of speak to a certain, for me, moment of cultural nostalgia. Before I came to visit you I was looking - after having seen the first set of these paintings in 'Freedom One Day' - at 1960s and 1970s photographs. Photographs from the Black Power Movement in our archive, photojournalistic images, even fashion photographs from this era from Essence magazine, which represent this amazing combination of cultural purity and high glamour. Many of the women in these pictures have huge defiant Afros but they also have this glamorous, intense eye shadow and false eyelashes and the lip gloss. There was an intense self-adornment - the hair, the finer rings and the jewelry - and all of them were about a certain kind of celestial iridescence.

CO: I think we are naturally drawn to things that are shiny, really, and I think if these paintings are in a room with other paintings or, as in the case of Venice, you walk into a muted, darkened space, these paintings make their own light. They kind of glow and glisten. I think that some of the issues we've talked about and will talk about culturally are quite serious things, really. I do think that serious subjects can't always be dealt with in a serious way. I think some of the most serious and weight subjects should be presented sometime in alight, glittery, glistening way to lure you in and then, slowly, as you become accustomed to that, other layers start to reveal, to unfold. The paintings are layered. My surfaces are always about seduction. It is also, really, about just trying to make things look quite pretty too.

TG: We've gone through so many years of this kind of debate, prompted by Dave Hickey's book The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty, about the place of beauty in contemporary art, and spent a lot of time talking about whether beauty should be relevant, particularly in artwork that is concerned with cultural, political or conceptual issues.

CO: I was always astounded, in lectures or talks, when people were talking about the irrelevance of beauty, because right after the discussion the same people would go down to the shopsand buy the nicest possible outfit they could get. They weren't trying to get the ugly one!

TG: It's a line of thought, which conflates beauty with something other than serious issues or ideas. The idea that something could...

CO: Could be serious and confounding at the same time as it was beautiful...

TG: I think there is a certain kind of meta-critique around the beauty dialogue. Somehow, of one has invested deeply in beauty, then ultimately, even if the intention is to be serious, it can't be seen as such. Beauty is a privilege. In some ways, I think that has been the greatest challenge in the contemporary art world - two notions of beauty - because there is beautiful work that's sort of trivial and beautiful, but there is also work that is beautiful and seductive, and it's when the seduction allows someone into these deeper issues that some people feel there is the greatest challenge to the idea of beauty in and of itself.

CO: Well, you know, I spend a lot of time making these things and I'd much rather something existed in the world that people were attracted to because - forget about all that these paintings might represent, forget about what the red, black and green symbolism may represent to different people - what you might be left with is some pretty colors and pretty paintings and I think that's OK.

TG: You do?

CO: I think beauty for its own sake is a worthwhile value to have as a base.

Chris Ofili & Thelma Golden, 'A Conversation', in Volume I: Words, exh. cat., British Pavilion Venice Biennale, Venice, 2003, unpaged.

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