Amoako Boafo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Amoako Boafo, 'The Lemon Bathing Suit', Lot 1

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 February

  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Lounging serenely by the pool, an anonymous black female body takes over the rippling surface of The Lemon Bathing Suit, 2019. Dressed with the eponymously-patterned swimming garment, the woman is rendered with characteristically brash brushstrokes, likening her skin to the wavering water surrounding her and firmly contrasting it with the sleek, smooth quality of both the white pool mattress she is lying on, and the wood-hued border circumventing the pool. This painting technique – merging flurries of brown, tan and blue, and fluctuating between straight and wrinkly lines – is emblematic of Amoako Boafo’s mode of figuration, and has called comparisons with the jagged aesthetic of Austrian painter Egon Schiele, who similarly undertook a gestural approach to portraiture. Yet Boafo’s work eludes psychological torment; instead, the artist sets friends, acquaintances and celebrities against summery, ethereal backdrops of which the countenance is usually bright and formally polished, departing from the protagonists’ beguilingly roughened silhouettes. ‘Most of the characters are people that share the same ideas as me. Others are also people that I find strength in – how they celebrate/live their blackness’ the artist said (Amoako Boafo, quoted in Victoria L. Valentine, ‘Amoako Boafo’s First Exhibition at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles Centers Black Subjectivity’, Culture Type, 15 February 2019, online). In this sense, The Lemon Bathing Suit demonstrates the possibilities enabled by the painterly medium, while at the same time boasting the wealth of black culture.

    In 2019, Boafo was chosen as the first artist-in-residence at the new Rubell Museum in Miami, where he worked on new paintings that would be featured at the institution’s inaugural exhibition. Gaining increasing recognition both critically and institutionally, the Ghanaian-born artist recalls his beginnings as a painter in Accra, where he grew up with his mother. ‘Art has really never been a part of my life growing up, because no Ghanaian parents would encourage their children to study art since it will not bring them stable income. [But] for me, drawing was one way to avoid a beating or getting into any trouble. Instead of running around, I will just sit home and draw’ (Amoako Boafo, quoted in Victoria L. Valentine, ‘Amoako Boafo’s First Exhibition at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles Centers Black Subjectivity’, Culture Type, 15 February 2019, online). The artist subsequently enrolled in an art school in his native city, and moved to Vienna upon graduating in 2007. Following his relocation, Boafo co-founded ‘We Dey’ (‘We Are’ in pidgin) in 2013 – an artistic collective that sought to re-introduce black perspectives to the Viennese art scene. From the same idea was born his inaugural Diaspora Series, which portrays ‘individuals from the Diaspora and the continent by highlighting self perception and beauty’ (Amoako Boafo, ‘Artist Statement’, Artist's website, online). The Lemon Bathing Suit is a result of this stylistic and theoretical trajectory; in many ways, it resembles the culturally motivated art of Toyin Ojih Odutola, whose paintings form an equally lavish and complex portraiture of black identity.

    In addition to inviting a reflection on blackness, Boafo conjures a number of themes that enthralled artists throughout the history of painting. Most prominently, the subjects of the pool and bather that permeate The Lemon Bathing Suit are iconic symbols that inspired artists such as Paul Cézanne, Pierre Bonnard, and David Hockney in their respective oeuvres. Notably, Hockney’s California Copied From 1965 Painting in 1987 portrays the coolness attributed to the theme of pool: an amalgamation of reverie, nonchalance and leisure for those who find themselves in it. With The Lemon Bathing Suit, Boafo infuses the basin with a contemporary twist, adorning the portrayed woman with a swimsuit and sunglasses that both seem to reflect contemporary fashion. In doing so, the artist paints a distinctly 21st century picture – further heightened by the painting’s large, billboard-like dimensions.

    In a stunning display of painterly effect, The Lemon Bathing Suit demonstrates the quality whereby Boafo’s compositions seem to run forever in motion, notwithstanding their two-dimensional form. ‘Despite their static poses, [Boafo’s characters] seem ever shifting and unfixed’, Sharon Mizota writes (Sharon Mizota, 'In Amoako Boafo’s portraits, every brushstroke of every black face matters’, The Los Angeles Times, 20 February 2019, online). As such, the protagonist within the present work appears to float atop the pool she is set against; moving away with the wind.

  • 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


The Lemon Bathing Suit

signed, inscribed and dated 'AMOAKO M BOAFO 2019 KING' centre right
oil on unstretched canvas
205.7 x 193 cm (80 7/8 x 75 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2019.

£30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £675,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 February 2020