Chris Ofili’s 1996 painting “The Holy Virgin Mary,” which caused a furor when it was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in October 1999 as part of an exhibition of works by young British artists, is going up for auction at Christie’s on June 30.

The 8-foot-high depiction of a black Virgin Mary is “encrusted with a lump of elephant dung and collaged bottoms from pornographic magazines.” Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, described Ofili’s painting and other works in the Brooklyn Museum exhibition as “sick stuff.” He tried to close the exhibition by withholding public funds, but was rejected by a federal judge.

The painting, estimated at about $2.3 million, will be included in Christie’s auction of postwar and contemporary art in London. That estimate “reflects Mr. Ofili’s status as a respected midcareer artist whose critical reputation has been enhanced in recent years by retrospectives at Tate Britain in London and the New Museum in New York,” wrote the New York Times, which posted a photo of the painting.

This is the same New York Times that refused to post a photo of Bosch Fawstin’s winning entry – or any entry – in the recent controversial Draw Muhammad contest which incurred an attempted terrorist attack.

It seems the art world loves provocative paintings, as long as the right people are being provoked.


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