Chris Ofili’s 1996 painting “The Holy Virgin Mary” created a stink when it showed in New York in 1999—then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the protesters of the elephant dung-encrusted portrait of the Madonna surrounded by photos of butts. But now its upcoming auction may prove the work’s value once and for all: Christie’s in London has set an estimated price of $2.3 million.
Ofili was one of the Young British Artists (YBAs) who scandalized and delighted the art world with works like Tracy Emin’s “My Bed,” a mattress covered in detritus like empty liquor bottles and used condoms, and Damien Hirst’s shark preserved in formaldehyde. Ofili is a winner of the prestigious Turner Prize and has been recognized with several high-profile retrospectives.
An Australian collector, David Walsh, is the current owner of the 8-foot-tall painting, and says the proceeds will go toward funding an expansion of his Museum of Old and New Art. The auction is set to take place June 30.