The controversial piece, which is encrusted with elephant dung, has an estimate of $2.3 million. Collector and owner of the Museum of New and Old Art, Tasmania, David Walsh is selling the painting at Christie's. This is the first time the piece will be at auction as Walsh purchased it from Charles Saatchi, who had originally purchased the piece from Ofili himself.

OfiliRevised2 Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996
Image via Saatchi Gallery

The piece was part of the Brooklyn Museum's Sensation exhibtion in 1999, where it was on loan from Saatchi. It caused uproar as mayor of New York Rudy Guiliani labelled the piece, which features religious iconography and elephant dung, "sick."

A court case was even taken against the museum by Guiliani and the City of New York, with threats to cut the institutions funding and even eviction. Arnold Lehman, the museum's director, fought the case and were successful.

Chris-Ofili-001 Chris Ofili
Image via the Guardian

Ofili told Vogue in 1999: "I don't feel as though I have to defend it."

"The people who are attacking this painting are attacking their own interpretation, not mine. You never know what's going to offend people, and I don't feel it's my place to say anymore."

Reportedly, the piece has a third-party guarantee.