Chris Ofili - New Now London Tuesday, December 15, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Executed after Chris Ofili’s move to Trinidad in 2005, Christmas Eve (Black Palms), 2007, exudes the important stylistic development that emerged with the artists dramatic change of environment from London to the Caribbean island. Ofili came to prominence in the early 1990s as part of the YBAs, receiving critical acclaim for his elephant dung and glitter paintings and for winning the Turner Prize in 1998 with his powerful tribute to Doreen and Stephen Lawrence, No Woman, No Cry, 1998. The artist went on to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2003.

    Christmas Eve (Black Palms), 2007, takes its title in part from the iconic photograph, Christmas Eve, 1963, by Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. Pairing the jubilant image of the dancing couple, perhaps here suggested in the rich yellow and orange pigment, with the overarching black palms, encourages the viewer to consider darkness and light, oppression and celebration, through the contrasting colour palette. Celebrated at David Zwirner, New York, in the artist’s debut solo show Devil’s Pie in 2007, Christmas Eve (Black Palms) explores the exhibitions unifying themes of birth, death, seduction and salvation, both religious and personal.

    Importantly for the artist, the extended Caribbean night-time - due to the twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness enjoyed by the island- had a stark impact on Ofili’s colour palette, in which strong bright colours are converged with intense black. The dark leafy tentacles in the present example evoke the dense tropical forests of Trinidad. Similar themes are explored in Ofili’s The Healer, 2008, executed a year after Christmas Eve (Black Palms). Retaining the same colour contrasts, Ofili depicts the native Yellow Poui flower, which blooms in the waking hours and dies the next day, combining it with a mythical character – a figure completely without light, who has to consume light in order to remain dark, inspired by island folklore.

    Executed in oil and charcoal on linen, Christmas Eve (Black Palms), 2007, exemplifies Ofili’s ability to create a wonderfully flat and intensely atmospheric surface, all-consuming, inviting the viewer into its depths and allowing a multitude of intriguing considerations.  

    • Provenance

      David Zwirner, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, David Zwirner, Devil's Pie, 20 September - 3 November 2007


Christmas Eve (Black Palms)

signed, titled and dated '"Christmas Eve (Black Palms)" 2007 CHRIS OFILI' on the reverse
oil and charcoal on linen
158.4 x 97.5 cm (62 3/8 x 38 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

£80,000 - 120,000 ‡♠

Sold for £81,900

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 15 December 2020