Monkey Magic - Sex, Money and Drugs
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jtucker's picture


If you think Chris Ofili’s artwork is sh*tty, you really aren't wrong.

His artwork is shitty, quite literally, as elephant dung is one of his favorite media, which is an interesting choice since his motto could be “give the people what they want”. Ofili has made a career out of focusing on what people expect from black artists but with a sort of slap across the face twist. Drug dealers, gangsta rap, amongst other pesky stereotypes that follow black culture around are par for the course in Ofili’s repertoire.

This work features a monkey rocking a vest and hat, which could be a reference to the racist comparison between monkeys and black people that is still referenced throughout our culture today. This monkey holds a chalice high as three balls of elephant dung with the words “sex,” “money,” and “drugs” fall into his glass. The dung could be a reference to the way black people have historically been treated by white people. While this is all up for interpretation, there is one thing we know for certain: Ofili is blatantly trying to push your buttons.

And push he does. Ofili is no stranger to scandal; he's known to anger the conservative right with work that has left public funding for the arts in question. If you can get past the offensive nature of his work though (and the implied smell), you will surely be rewarded with a pleasant array of color, enough glitter to make your inner princess swoon, and engrossing visual depth to his work. If for nothing else, this work can make pretty much all of us thankful we did not become professional art conservators. Seriously, could you imagine if it was your job to keep balls of elephant poo in pristine shape? No thank you.