The National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo, in partnership with the Tate Britain, an art gallery situated on Millbank in London, and part of the Tate Gallery Network in Britain, recently collaborated to restore the works of internationally-renowned artist, Chris Ofili.
The gallery received the guest painting conservator Natasha Walker from the Tate on January 21. She started working with Ofili’s works on “The Upper Room” installation acquired by the Tate Britain in 2005.
She has experience with the conservation of some of the unusual and delicate art materials that Ofili uses.
“It was because of this experience that she was sent by the Tate to assist in the restoration of the initial dung paintings by Chris Ofili in Zimbabwe,” said NGZ communications intern Rutendo Bako.
Bako said when Ofili visited Zimbabwe in the early 1990s on a British Council funded visit to Pachipamwe International Artists’ Workshop, he was young, unknown and inexperienced only to be internationally acclaimed more than a decade later.
She said he had become one of the living internationally-renowned artists for his vibrant, technically complex and meticulously executed paintings and works on paper.
“He has developed his works from predominantly abstract to a signature figurative style that bridges the gap between the sacred and the profane and between high art and popular culture,” said Bako.
She said the works in the NGZ collection were the prototypes of his later works comprising three untitled paintings, the largest which is nearly two metres long, depicting what appears to be a figure on which six pieces of dung have been attached and the other two being expressionist paintings of figures, owing to their unusual materials and the artist’s lack of experience at the time of making them.
Bako said the Tate Gallery in London offered technical conservation of works designed to stabilise and preserve the unusual materials as they were experienced in the conservation of the distinguished artist’s work.
“The works which were donated to the NGZ in 2011 by the artist form an important anchor in the contemporary art collection and join the existing group of works that celebrate contemporary works that represent current global artistic practice,” she said.
Bako said the NGZ was proud to be in possession of works of an artist who was producing pieces that commanded global acclaim and high value while he was still alive. They were delighted they would now be well conserved.
She said that honourable move had boosted the NGZ’s permanent collection.