Amoako Boafo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'The primary idea of my practice is representation, documenting, celebrating, and showing new ways to approach Blackness.' —Amoako BoafoBorn in Accra, Ghana, Amoako Boafo is an artist at the forefront of discussions surrounding the history of portraiture and the intersections of race, identity, representation, and masculinity historically overlooked by the genre. Executed in the same year that the Boafo took up a productive artist’s residency at the Rubell Museum in Miami and presented his first solo show, I See Me, with Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, Bailike is a confident expression of this accomplished young artist’s practice, highlighting at once his remarkable facility as a painter, and the careful tenderness with which he approaches his subjects.


    Amoako Boafo discusses his painting practice and the role of fashion in his work ahead of his collaboration with the fashion house Dior for their Men’s Summer 2021 Collection.


    Standing in a relaxed, but quietly assertive stance with his arms hanging by his sides, the perfectly poised figure fixes us with a steady gaze, the crisp white of his clothed body standing out sharply against the monochromatic field behind him. Sketched out in confident, economic pencil lines, the unpainted hands are of particular significance here, one tagged with the enigmatic ‘King’ insignia with which Boafo often signs his works, which here seems to reinforce the subject’s regal bearing. Highly characteristic of Boafo’s portraits, the artist here achieves striking contrasts in his carefully focused palette and the sharp transitions between the warm peachy ground, brilliant whites, and more complex application of darker tones used in the construction of the figure’s face.


    Despite the static pose assumed by the coolly self-possessed subject, Bailike is charged with energy and vitality, a quality achieved through the artist’s fluid treatment of paint, nuanced sense of colour, and the thick, gestural marks used in the modelling of the face. Highly textured, the subtle combinations of umber, deep red, bright yellow, and midnight blue are powerfully concentrated in the face here, making it the focal point of the composition and centring our attention on questions of identity, race, and representation.


    In the Picture


    In its compositional arrangement and stripped back focus on the Black figure, Bailike contributes to an increasingly visible and robust legacy of 20th century and contemporary Black portraiture that includes the likes of Barkley L. Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Kehinde Wiley. In the understated elegance and self-possessed dignity of its subject, Bailike also recalls the West African studio portraits of celebrated mid-century photographers Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, and Seydou Keïta, an influence that can be felt in Boafo’s own artistic process, and his tendency to work from carefully staged photographs of his subjects. Speaking of these influences Boafo has explained ‘there is a lot I learn from these artists to use in my own work, such as capturing the moods and moments as they are able to capture with photography.’i


    Seydou Keïta , Untitled, 1952 / 1955. Image and Artwork: © Seydou Keïta/SKPEAC -  Courtesy The Jean Pigozzi African Art Collection
    Seydou Keïta, Untitled, 1952 / 1955. Image and Artwork: © Seydou Keïta/SKPEAC
    - Courtesy The Jean Pigozzi African Art Collection


    Intimacy and empathy are key to Boafo’s practice, and in his decision to focus on the everyday individuals who, like him, have left the African country of their birth in what the artist describes as the ‘Black diaspora’, he has crafted a new visual language through which to explore questions surrounding racial identity and displacement. As the artist describes, ‘I actually know most of the characters I paint. I am familiar with their expressions and their energy. When you see the portrait I want you to know: This is their energy. By painting them I can connect the colours I use with the energy of the people I portray.’ii


    Relocating to Vienna in 2014 in order to attend the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts, Boafo’s portraits are frequently likened to those of Austrian Successionist Egon Schiele, whose work he would have enjoyed first hand at the Leopold and Albertina Museums upon his arrival in the city. Certainly, Boafo’s expressive use of colour, energetic treatment, and psychological lucidity draws close to that of his Austrian predecessor, the intense corporeality and energetic fluidity of Schiele’s mark-making practice extended with Boafo’s innovative application of paint to the canvas directly with his fingertips. Creating a profound sense of depth, surface texture, and movement in the face of the sitter who appeared in another portrait from the same year, Bailike highlights the emotional intimacy and vitality that characterises Boafo’s best loved works.


    CAPTION: [LEFT] Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Striped Shirt, 1910, Leopold Museum, Vienna. Image: Bridgeman Images  CAPTION: [RIGHT] Detail of the present work
    [LEFT] Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Striped Shirt, 1910, Leopold Museum, Vienna. Image: Bridgeman Images 
    [RIGHT] Detail of the present work


    Collector’s Digest


    • 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, the year after the present work was executed, 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 will also be represented as one of contemporary art’s most significant emerging figures in the forthcoming 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.


    i Amoako Boafo, quoted in Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, ‘Amoako Boafo by Belinda Kazeem- Kamiński’, Bomb Magazine, 26 August 2020, online.
    ii Amoako Boafo, quoted in Gabriel Roland, ‘In the Studio: Amoako Boafo, Vienna’, Collector’s Agenda, online.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
      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



signed, inscribed and dated 'AMOAKO M BOAFO 2019 KING' lower right
oil and pencil on vinyl
201 x 151 cm (79 1/8 x 59 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

£350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for £403,200

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741


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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022