Amoako Boafo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "I take inspiration from many painters, mostly those who use simple imagery in a momentous way, referring to light and tone at the forefront of their practice." 
    —Amoako Boafo
    Legs open, arms crossed, the subject of Amoako Boafo’s Pink Shorts, 2019, gazes languidly from a plane of pinks. The flat, monochrome surfaces that comprise his shirt, shorts, and the background of the work contrast with the textural paint that makes up his figure. Boafo’s brushwork and the intensity of his portraits such as this one—along with a shared history of habitation in Vienna—draw comparisons between his work and that of Austrian painter Egon Schiele’s. However, Boafo focuses exclusively on painting members of the African and African diaspora community, noting that he prefers to paint people with a connection to himself. “It so happens the people, like myself, from these communities are not recognized and are looked down on. These are the people with beautiful stories of their struggles to share, and hence they are the people I mostly paint.”i


    Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder, 1912, Leopold Museum, Vienna. Image: HIP / Art Resource, NY 

    Born and raised in Accra, Ghana, where he studied at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design, in 2014 Boafo moved to Vienna to pursue an MFA at the Academy of Fine Arts. While there, he faced frequent rejection from galleries refusing to show African painters and subsequently sought to create paintings that combatted the stereotypes he was facing as a Black man with limited opportunities abroad. “Maybe I should just show them how I want to be seen,” the artist said in an interview for his debut museum solo exhibition Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, which took place at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, in the summer of 2022.ii

    Pink Shorts is one such portrait that, with minimal rendering, shows a man positioned in the comfort of his own space, as if seated in conversation with a friend. The swirling, unblended strokes that make up his skin are painted with Boafo’s fingers rather than a brush and embrace spontaneity. “The lack of control I have with using my fingers is organic… I love that this seemingly simple motion can generate such an intense energy and create almost sculptural figures,” explains the artist.iii The direct nature of Boafo’s contact with the painting only further encourages the intimacy of this work. Relying on his intuition in determining his use of color, Boafo considers his relationship with color similar to a poet’s with words or a musician’s with sound.iv This is reflected in his seamless integration of patches of blue and gray into his subject’s skin, and the effortless flow of multiple contrasting shades of pink throughout the painting.

    "The primary idea of my practice is representation, documenting, celebrating and showing new ways to approach Blackness." 
    —Amoako Boafo
    Boafo is a rising star among a generation of Black painters dedicated to celebrating Blackness in their work. With his vibrant use of color and large-scale figuration, he joins a pantheon of trailblazers such as Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald. More than just an inspirational force, Wiley has championed Boafo’s works and owns several of his paintings. After finding Boafo on Instagram in 2018, Wiley purchased one of his paintings and brought the Ghanaian artist to the attention of his galleries. In 2019, the same year the present work was painted, he participated in an artist residency at the newly opened Rubell Museum, Miami. His rise has been meteoric, and paintings by Boafo have recently entered the permanent collections of The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, among many other prestigious institutions.


    i Amoako Boafo, quoted in Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, “Amoako Boafo by Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński,” Bomb Magazine, August 26, 2020, online.
    ii Amoako Boafo, quoted at 17:55 in Larry Ossei-Mensah, “In Conversation,” Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, May 25, 2022, online.
    iii Amoako Boafo, quoted in Dean Kissick, “Figurative Painter Amoako Boafo on his Stratospheric Rise,” GQ, January 29, 2021, online.
    iv Amoako Boafo, quoted in Victoria L. Valentine, “Culture Talk: Amoako Boafo’s First Exhibition at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles Centers Black Subjectivity,” Culture Type, February 15, 2019, online.

    • Provenance

      Robert Projects, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      San Francisco, Museum of the African Diaspora, Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, October 20, 2021–February 27, 2022

    • Literature

      Osei Bonsu, Rachel Cargle, Mutombo Da Poet and Aja Monet, Amoako Boafo, Culver City, 2022 (illustrated, forthcoming)

    • 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

Property from an American Private Collection


Pink Shorts

signed, inscribed and dated "AMOAKO M BOAFO 2019 KING" lower right
oil on canvas
80 7/8 x 74 in. (205.4 x 188 cm)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $403,200

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Global Managing Director and Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1278

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Associate Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206


20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022