The Holy Virgin Mary – Controversial painting covered in elephant dung and pornographic images

In 1999, Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary gained controversy where it showed a black-descendant Virgin Mary surrounded in elephant feces and pornographic images in the background. New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani expressed outraged and threatened to cease funding of the Brooklyn Museum where the painting was being held. The museum sued the mayor believing that their first amendment rights were under attack. The museum won the lawsuit. The mayor was not the only one to be outraged. The painting was vandalized when an elderly visitor threw white paint on the art piece. The painting still managed to be recovered. The painting has now been sold for over four million dollars. A lot of the outraged grew from the depiction of religious symbols where the public felt the need to censor the art piece. Ofili has defended the painting that an elephant’s feces are beautiful. Ofili was also raised as a Catholic so it is uncertain whether he intended to criticize the religion itself. I personally do not necessarily understand what Ofili intended to convey with the painting. Regardless of Ofili’s intentions even if they were to criticize the Catholic religion or not, I believe he should be able to do so. Fortunately, this painting has been quite successful despite its fight with censorship and vandalism.

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