Amoako Boafo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Amoako Boafo has established himself as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary portraiture. Earnest, self-assured, and unpretentiously powerful— these are the characteristics that come to mind when looking at a Boafo subject. White on White, 2019, exhibited earlier this year in the artist's solo exhibition Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, is a stunning, stripped-back portrait of a figure wearing white and set against a richly textured white background. Boafo has sculpted the sitter’s face by building up his visage directly with his fingers: swirls through polychromatic pigments layer to form a sense of depth and complexity to his sitters’ complexion, creating an undeniable vivacity.

    Boafo’s concise, tactile style naturally lends to his exploration of community, friendship, and social and political issues. Working primarily on paper and using his fingers in lieu of a brush, Boafo has incorporated small resistances into his practice despite his formal training. His portraits evidence masterful execution, however, involving an intricate process of cutting and layering the underlying surface to create subtle, highly detailed works.

    "The faces and hands of my subjects are formed in wells of paint with my fingers. The lack of control I have with using my fingers is organic and that shows through in the abstract forms that creates the beautiful faces of my subjects. I use painting as an instrument both literally and to navigate the human experience."
    —Amoako Boafo 

    Boafo first turned to self-portraiture after having moved to Austria from his native Ghana, conscious of how he stood out from the community in Vienna. In an act of purposeful documentation, he then turned to painting Black friends as an assertion of presence against the predominantly white communities in which he now lives. The artist’s latest institutional solo exhibition, the above-mentioned Soul of Black Folks, derives its title from W.E.B. Du Bois’ seminal study of Black life and race in America, The Souls of Black Folk, in which he famously used the term “double consciousness” to describe the idea that Black people must be constantly conscious of how they view themselves and are viewed by the world. In this sense, Boafo also draws on the tradition of artists such as Barkley Hendricks, who imbued his cool and fashionable but ordinary sitters with celebrity-like personas in confident, life-size portraits.

    "I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background."
    — Zora Neale Hurston

    Having earned his MFA from the University of Fine Arts, Vienna, Boafo has also drawn from eminent Austrian painters including Egon Schiele and Maria Lassnig. Lassnig has been cited as a particular influence, specifically her painting method Körperbewusstseinsmalerei, loosely translated as body-awareness. In both Boafo’s and Lassnig’s work the subject often gazes out at the viewer against a stark background, demanding the viewer enter a relationship with the painted subject. Transcending the mere materiality of paint, Boafo enlivens his portrait with the spirit of the sitter-artist. 


    Maria Lassnig, Selbst mit Meerschweinchen (Self with Guinea Pig), 2000–2001

    After his prodigious discovery by fellow portraitist Kehinde Wiley, Boafo has become one of the most sought-after young contemporary painters on the rise. He has established himself as a leader out of Ghanatta College of Art and Design, whose other alumni include Annan Affotey, Emmanuel Taku, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Cornelius Annor, and Serge Attukwei Clottey. In addition to active institutional recognition, his artistic endeavors have brought his work into the realms of fashion and, quite literally, outer space: Boafo collaborated with Kim Jones, artistic director of Dior Men, to create a Summer 2021 line featuring and inspired by his paintings and later that year was selected to create the inaugural Blue Origin Suborbital Triptych, for which he painted exterior panels featured on a rocket launched into space.


    Collector’s Digest 

    • Gagosian, New York will host a solo exhibition with the artist in 2022.


    • Boafo has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, where the present work was exhibited, and will hold exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum and Denver Art Museum in the coming year. Examples of Boafo’s work are held in the permanent collections of prestigious international institutions including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Albertina Museum in Vienna, where the artist currently resides.


    • In 2020 Boafo was named as one of ‘The Most Influential Artists’ of that year and featured in the Artsy Vanguard 2020 following the then record-breaking sale of his The Lemon Bathing Suit at Phillips London. The focus of considerable attention since then, Boafo was also represented as one of contemporary art’s most significant emerging figures in the publication Prime – Art’s Next Generation (2022).


    • Boafo’s debut European exhibition Inside Out opened in April of this year with Mariane Ibrahim in Paris. He also shows with Roberts Projects in Los Angeles.

    • Provenance

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

    • Exhibited

      San Francisco, Museum of African Diaspora; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, October 20, 2021–October 2, 2022

    • Literature

      Letha Ch'ien, "Artist Amoako Boafo's soulful portraits stand up to all the hype in his first museum show," San Francisco Chronicle, October 29, 2021, online (illustrated)
      Luke Williams, "Black Portraiture is More Than a Market Fad in MoAD's Amoako Boafo Show," KQED, December 29, 2021, online (illustrated)

    • 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


White on White

signed, inscribed and dated "Amoako M Boafo 2019 King" center
oil on paper
39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in. (100 x 80 cm)
Painted in 2019.

This work has been requested for inclusion in the artist's forthcoming exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum in Summer 2023 and at the Denver Art Museum in Winter 2023-24.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $415,800

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022