Tate Britain Reveals Grenfell-Inspired Staircase

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 10 October 2023

Tate Britain Reveals Grenfell-Inspired Staircase
The vivid, flame-hued mural around the staircase
Chris Ofili, Requiem, 2023 (detail) commissioned for Tate Britain’s north staircase © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Thierry Bal

The north staircase of Tate Britain has been transformed into a moving and vivid tribute to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Chris Ofili's Requiem — which spans three walls of the staircase, and will be here for at least 10 years — is described as "an imagined landscape of giant skies with vast horizons and flowing water, unfolding in three chapters".

Part of the mural showing a figure shedding golden tears
Requiem pays tribute to the Gambian-British photographer Khadija Saye, who died in the Grenfell tragedy. © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Thierry Bal

In particular, Requiem pays tribute to the Gambian-British photographer Khadija Saye, who Ofili first met just a month before Saye died in the Grenfell tragedy. Saye appears on the middle wall, in a pose drawn from her own work, Andichurai (a screenprint of which is on display at Tate Britain). She holds a Gambian incense pot, symbolising the possibility of transformation through faith.

Though Ofili's mural shows paradisical worlds of hope and peace inhabited by mythical beings, it doesn't shy from the stark horrors of Grenfell — the whole scene glowing with a flame-hued sky, and an image of the tower itself on fire.

A panoramic view of the mural
The mural will be in situ for 10 years. © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Thierry Bal

Requiem takes over from David Tremlett's Mondrian-esque Drawing for Free Thinking, which had been here since September 2011.

Anyone can visit the staircase, which is inside the free-entry gallery on Millbank.