Amoako Boafo - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips
  • In Short

    “I want to paint people who have had the same experiences as me. I want to see myself and have people see themselves in me”
    – Amoako Boafo

  • Depicting the Black Diaspora

    Executed in luscious blues, browns, and violets, Joy in Purple exemplifies the investigation of black representation and identity explored in Amoako Boafo’s “Black Diaspora” series. Usually painting friends or people in his community, this series is according to the artist, “first a celebration of blackness and second a form of documentation.”[i] Coalescing his Ghanaian heritage with European art history, Boafo thrusts members of the African Diaspora into traditional modes of Western portraiture through a visual lexicon that is his alone.


    Boafo uses brushes to render the monochromatic backgrounds and his figure’s clothing, but he paints the subjects themselves directly with his fingers. “I am trying to find ways to celebrate individuality, which is reflective in my technique,” he says. “When I paint with my fingers, I have less control, which I believe is beneficial.”[ii] Such an intimate application of paint allows him to achieve a gestural, expressionistic effect as well as to imprint a physical mark of his own identity into these incredibly personal pictures.

    After graduating from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra, Boafo married and relocated to Austria, earning his MFA at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. During this formative time, he was introduced to both the history of Viennese portraiture, specifically the dynamic brushwork of Egon Schiele’s paintings, and to the deep racial divide in the Austrian art world. “I thought that Europe, or the West more broadly, is more open to painting—that it’s a career that your parents will not discourage you from going into,” Boafo expressed. “But then when I arrived, I had a very difficult time because spaces rejected me, saying they don’t show African painting.”[iii]

    “I wanted to paint the Black diaspora, or Black people, the way I see them” – Amoako Boafo 

    [i] Amoako Boafo, quoted in Victoria L. Valentine, “Amoako Boafo’s First Exhibition at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles Centers Black Subjectivity,” Culture Type, February 15, 2019, online.
    [ii] Amoako Boafo, quoted in Lucy Rees, “Amoako Boafo’s Powerful Portraits Explore Black Identity,” Galerie Magazine, April 1, 2020, online.
    [iii] Amoako Boafo, quoted in Harley Wong, “Amoako Boafo Is Navigating Art-World Success While Lifting up the African Diaspora,” Artsy, May 26, 2020, online.  
  • Studio Visit

  • Collector's Digest

    Kehinde Wiley originally found Boafo’s work on Instagram, admiring them so much that he acquired multiple pieces and recommended him to his gallery, Roberts Projects. This introduction culminated in the artist’s exhibition, “I See Me,” which catapulted him to acclaim in early 2019. Today, he is considered to be one of the most exciting voices in contemporary African portraiture.

    Despite being only 36 years old, preeminent institutions—such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Albertina Museum, Vienna—have rapidly begun acquiring his work. His paintings are rare to market, and Phillips archived the world record for the artist this past February in London.

    • Provenance

      Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
      Private Collection
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Amoako Boafo

      Amoako Boafo’s work questions contemporary misunderstandings of blackness by contrasting personal and structural perceptions and portrayals of black people. His heavily expressionistic and sensitive portraits of friends and acquaintances highlight their self-perception and beauty while challenging the misconceptions of blackness that objectify and dehumanize black people. Often depicting his sitters with animated lucidity against vibrant, monochromatic backgrounds, Boafo asks for understanding of the diversity and complexity of blackness in spite of the frequently negative representations of black people in media and culture. Though born in Accra, Ghana, he now lives and works in Vienna, Austria.

      View More Works


Joy in Purple

signed, inscribed and dated “AMOAKO M BOAFO 2019 KING” center right
oil on canvas
81 1/2 x 77 1/4 in. (207 x 196.2 cm)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $668,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020