Chris Ofili: The Upper Room
Tate Britain: Exhibition
13 September 20051 January 2007
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  • Chris Ofili The Upper Room (Installation, Victoria Miro Gallery, June 2002) 1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    The Upper Room (Installation, Victoria Miro Gallery, June 2002) 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image:courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Lyndon Douglas

  • Chris Ofili Mono Amarillo 1999–2002

    Chris Ofili 
    Mono Amarillo 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Marron,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Marron 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Turquesa 1999-2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Turquesa 1999-2002
    Oil, acrylic, glitter, graphite, fibre tip pen, elephant dung, polyester resin and map pins on canvas
    1832 x 1228 mm support: 2442 x 1830 mm

    © Courtesy Chris Ofili - Afroco and Victoria Miro Gallery. Photo: Dave Lambert, Rod Tidnam

  • Chris Ofili Mono Verde 1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Verde 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Rosa 1999-2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Rosa 1999-2002
    Oil, acrylic, glitter, graphite, fibre tip pen, elephant dung, polyester resin and map pins on canvas
    1832 x 1228 mm support: 2442 x 1830 mm

    © Courtesy Chris Ofili - Afroco and Victoria Miro Gallery. Photo: Dave Lambert, Rod Tidnam

  • Chris Ofili Mono Naranja, 1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Naranja 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Rojo,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Rojo 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Negro,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Negro 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Blanco 1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Blanco 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Azul,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Azul 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Morado,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Morado 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

  • Chris Ofili Mono Gris,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Gris 1999–2002

  • Chris Ofili Mono Oro,1999–2002

    Chris Ofili
    Mono Oro 1999–2002

    © Chris Ofili   Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London   Photo: Stephen White

Chris Ofili’s The Upper Room consists of thirteen paintings displayed in an environment especially designed by the architect David Adjaye. When it was first publicly exhibited in 2002, critics commented on the chapel-like qualities of the space and its lighting. The arrangement of twelve canvases flanking a thirteenth larger one suggests Christ and his Apostles, and the arrangement has an extraordinary sensory effect.

Each painting shows a rhesus macaque monkey, and each is dominated by a different colour, identified in Spanish on the elephant dung supports. In a text that accompanied the work’s first exhibition, a conservation biologist described the rhesus macaque as ‘loud, active, entertaining, fearsomely intelligent – the consummate cheeky monkey’. She also pointed out how rhesus monkeys have been venerated in certain religions, and observed that ‘monkeys may be godless but … rhesus macaques display a deeper degree of compassion for each other than do human beings’.

With this work Ofili raises questions about the relationships between civilisation and untamed nature, between the religious and the secular.