“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
It started innocently enough, with a gallery opening. The crowd gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 curious to see an exhibition from London. The Young British Artists had been creating quite a buzz, but the art world was not ready for a particular piece.
At first sight, it is quite beautiful; saturated blues, deep black tones, and lovely yellow hue. Upon further study of The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Olifi created quite a stir. You see, he used elephant dung to create the bare-breasted Madonna. Add to that the cherub-like creatures surrounding the black skinned depiction of Mary were created with pornographic images. As you can imagine, it cause quite a stir amongst the Catholic Church, and the government. The mayor at the time even went so far as to sue the museum for this exhibition. Of course, this created instant notoriety for Chris Ofili.
You see, this amazing painting was recently up for auction and I wanted to discuss its controversy and why it is actually one of the world’s best reflections of our societal ignorance. The “disgusting” elephant dung is quite sacred in African cultures. Add to that, the few and dwindling representations of a non-caucasian deity in current society. Finally, he represented the graphic concept of the sinner being the motivation for a savior to begin with.
So I present to you… a masterpiece that strikes the heart or a shallow piece created for attention?