Chris Ofili’s Grenfell Tower Mural Has Been Unveiled At Tate Britain

By Martha Davies

9 months ago

The mural commemorates the Grenfell tragedy and honours the artist and activist Khadija Saye, who died in the fire in 2017


The Grenfell Tower fire is something we should never forget – an awful tragedy and one of the UK’s most horrific modern disasters. Chris Ofili’s new mural is now on show at Tate Britain, commemorating the fire in a tender and distinctly powerful way.

Chris Ofili’s Grenfell Tower Mural Has Been Unveiled At Tate Britain

Chris Ofili's vibrant mural commemorating the Grenfell Tower fire.

Chris Ofili, Requiem, 2023 (detail) commissioned for Tate Britain’s north staircase © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Thierry Bal

Entitled Requiem, Chris Ofili’s new mural is laid out in three poignant ‘chapters’ stretching across the Tate’s North Staircase. The mural is alive with dazzling colour, offering a striking tribute to the 72 victims of the Grenfell fire. 

Requiem is a tender reflection on grief, spirituality and transformation. The central section is dedicated to Khadija Saye, a Gambian-British artist who Ofili met in Venice in May 2017 and who died in the Grenfell fire that year. After private viewings for Saye’s family and for the Grenfell community, the mural is now officially open to the public. 

Chris Ofili's vibrant mural commemorating the Grenfell Tower fire.

Chris Ofili, Requiem, 2023 (detail) commissioned for Tate Britain’s north staircase © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Thierry Bal

Ofili presents viewers with an imagined landscape of sprawling horizons and rolling waves. The left-hand wall shows the figure of a grieving prophet or witness holding the burning tower as his tears fall into the water below. Khadija Saye takes pride of place on the middle wall, depicted in a pose drawn from her own work, Andichurai – a screenprint of which is also on display at Tate Britain. In Ofili’s work, Saye holds a Gambian incense pot symbolising the possibility of transformation through faith. The right-hand wall, meanwhile, offers a land of hope and peace. The water that unites the entire composition represents collective grief, as well as connecting London, Venice and Ofili’s home in Trinidad.

Ofili is one of the most acclaimed British painters of his generation, having become the youngest artist to win the Turner Prize in 1998. Requiem recalls his deeply moving work of the same year, No Woman, No Cry, which he created as a tribute to Stephen Lawrence and his mother Doreen, after Lawrence was murdered in 1993.

Chris Ofili's vibrant mural commemorating the Grenfell Tower fire.

Chris Ofili, Requiem, 2023 (detail) commissioned for Tate Britain’s north staircase © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Thierry Bal

‘A statement of sadness was manifested in No Woman, No Cry,’ Ofili reflects. ‘That feeling of injustice has returned. I wanted to make a work in tribute to Khadija Saye. Remembering the Grenfell Tower fire, I hope that the mural will continue to speak across time to our collective sadness.’

Requiem will be in place for 10 years. Alongside the screenprint of Khadija Saye’s Andichurai, Ofili’s work No Woman, No Cry is also on free display at Tate Britain now.

For more information, visit tate.org.uk