For the Unknown Runner

Chris Ofili (1968 - )



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© London 2012 / Chris Ofili

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  • About the work
    Country: Japan
    City: Tokyo
    Place: British Embassy

    This print by Chris Ofili depicts an imaginary figure engaged in a superhuman sprint to the finishing line. As a tribute to all those who take part in the Olympics, the anonymous runner is framed by the motif of a vase – a reference to the Ancient Olympic Games, which originally featured artistic as well as sporting excellence. This work is part of a set of limited-edition prints, commissioned from some of the UK’s most critically acclaimed artists to celebrate London hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. A set of these prints was presented to the Government Art Collection.


    Ofili’s paintings draw upon a mixture of themes including personal experience, race, folklore, the Bible, as well as most recently, the landscape and mythology of Trinidad. Running through his work is a concern with the politics of Black identity. This theme was encapsulated in Ofili’s work called The Union Black (2003), an adaptation of the Union Jack flag, created in red, black and green. The flag was inspired by the African-American Civil Rights leader Marcus Garvey, who established the red, black and green flag of Pan-Africanism, with the aim of uniting all people of African descent. As Ofili explains: 


    There is the term ‘Black British’, that describes Black people born in Britain. So I thought, seeing as though I’m British and I have African ancestry, I would like to try to make a flag for African-British people. 


    Chris Ofili was also commissioned to design one of twenty official posters for Tokyo 2020.


  • About the artist
    Chris Ofili was born in Manchester and studied at Chelsea School of Art from 1988 to 1991. While studying for his MA at the Royal College of Art in 1992, he was awarded the British Council travel scholarship to Zimbabwe. Of Nigerian descent, Ofili found in Zimbabwe an opportunity to reconsider his own identity at home in Britain and how he was perceived abroad. He began to incorporate elephant dung and decorative dots into his canvases, as well as drawing on a variety of influences from Black British culture, including magazines, music and mainstream media. Ofili was included in the influential Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997. He had a major exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1998, and won the Turner Prize the same year. Ofili was the first Black artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2002. His work is held in international collections including the Tate Collection and he was appointed CBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to art. Ofili moved to Trinidad in 2005 and now divides his time between the Caribbean, London and New York.
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    olympic games
    Materials & Techniques
  • Details
    For the Unknown Runner
    Portfolio Title
    London 2012
    HDC 2/10
    height: 76.00 cm, width: 60.00 cm
    Presented by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, October 2011
    br: HDC 2/10 Ofili
    London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (gift)
    GAC number