SAN FRANCISCO, CA, January 31, 2000—The San Francisco Museum of Modern (SFMOMA) announced today the acquisition of a major new work by Chris Ofili. In the vibrant large-scale figurative painting Princess of the Posse , 1999—one of five new works showcased in the artist’s second New York gallery show Afrobiotics last October—Ofili combines themes from art, craft and witchcraft with references to pop culture and non-Western traditions. SFMOMA purchased Princess of the Posse through the John Caldwell Fund for Contemporary Art, founded in 1993 in honor of the late SFMOMA curator of painting and sculpture.
With this acquisition, SFMOMA adds to what is rapidly becoming one of the most important collections of contemporary black artists in the world. The painting joins work by such African-American artists Kerry James Marshall, Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, Gary Simmons and British artists Steve McQueen and Yinka Shonibare. This work also joins a group of 19 works by other young British artists that SFMOMA acquired in 1999 as a gift from Bay Area collectors Kent and Vicki Logan.
“We have been hoping to acquire a work by Ofili for the last three years; it was just a matter of waiting for the right one,” commented SFMOMA Elise S. Haas Chief Curator and Curator of Painting and Sculpture Gary Garrels. “Ofili’s work is singular, synthesizing an extraordinary diversity of sources, to make powerful paintings with immediate visual punch and appeal but with layers of references that reward sustained attention. He is a masterful craftsman, and the richness and formal sophistication of his paintings is exceptional.”
In Princess of the Posse, named after a song by New York hip hop singer Queen Latifah, Ofili utilizes diverse media—including glitter, resin and his signature elephant dung—to create a richly textured surface that literally glows in the dark. In a review of Afrobiotics, New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote, “An especially impressive painting, Princess of the Posse shows a woman rising like a vision above ornate foliage motifs and underscores the new confidence with which Mr. Ofili is combining his psychedelic patterns and cartoonish yet dignified portraits.”
Born in Manchester, England, Ofili was raised Roman Catholic by parents who emigrated from Nigeria, and now lives and works in London. He received his B.A. from the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1991 and his M.A. from the Royal College of Art in London in 1993. Ofili’s work has been shown throughout Europe and in New York, where his The Holy Virgin Mary on view in the Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection triggered heated debate and legal proceedings. In 1998, Ofili received the Tate Gallery’s prestigious Turner Prize.
Princess of the Posse will be on view this summer at SFMOMA in an exhibition of contemporary art from the ’90s drawn from the permanent collection.