Emmanuel Taku - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “Anyone who sees my painting, what I want them to understand is unity.”
    — Emmanuel Taku

     Characteristically flamboyant, Ghanian artist Emmanuel Taku’s subjects are resplendent in their floral print flares and striking poses, setting the tone of his portraits with dramatic compositions. Sporting matching paisley suits, the two siblings in Brothers in Red stand with their legs in synchronicity, meeting the viewer’s gaze unashamedly. Capturing the human body in an almost abstract form, Taku’s subjects stand in various intertwined, overlapped, and dynamic poses that exude intensity and power, bestowing them with supernatural grace.


    In November 2020, Taku was selected to be Accra based residency programme – Noldor’s first artist in residence, garnering instrumental international acclaim and success for the artist during this process. The current work, Brothers in Red was created during this period, and was exhibited during his first solo exhibition with the residency, Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two.



    Installation view of the present lot (right) at Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two, Noldor Artist Residency, Accra
    4 December 2020 - 17 January 2021
    Image courtesy Metal Magazine

    Temple of Black Deities


    Growing up as a child, although Taku was enamoured by colourful comics about superheroes, he was never able to find representation of his own image in these stories. In negation, the artist creates his own Black superheroes, or as he calls them – ‘deities’, as a way to capture Black people as demi-gods or heroes in their unapproachable splendour. Just like Superman, Taku’s protagonists have vacant, white eyes that represent the ‘very essence of power and strength’ i.


    Detail of the present lot

     Always pictured as duos or in groups, these deities are consistently linked physically with no space or gaps in between, becoming anthropomorphic silhouettes as Taku’s signature floral motif blends them together on the canvas, consolidating their bodies into one. As such, the artist’s figurative surrealist approach revisits and reclaims a Black narrative that has been politicised in the past, overturning this by affirming a new identity that is rooted in a sense of unity and empowerment, echoing the Ghanian proverb: ‘A broomstick [alone] can be broken easily, but when it’s put together [with others], it becomes very difficult to be broken.’ ii.

    “In capturing the layered essence of the black bodies in my work, I seek to capture a sense of balance and conflict within a single entity captured as a demi-god. I have always looked to push the boundaries of representation and I believe it is important to celebrate the complexity of existence that black people turn to internalise.”
    — Emmanuel Taku

    Rooted in Heritage


    Taku’s distinctive creative approach begins from designing the underlying form and structure of the composition. Often inspired by fashion poses in magazines and even from Instagram, Taku selects subjects of interest, highlighting the figurative elements by selecting colours that best capture the spirit of his subjects. Taku’s silk-screening technique reflects his love for Ghanian textiles: patterns which were often worn by his mother and sister and has been a prevalent presence in his life since youth – whether as tablecloth or in garments. Moreover, Taku’s floral motifs are a symbol of strength. The artist’s own mother represents strength in his life – and she loves to wear paisley. Taku thus considers the pattern to be the natural visual representation of power and strength, incorporating it in his work unconsciously.


    The use of newspapers in Taku’s work further emphasise his Ghanian heritage. The artist cuts and pastes fragments of local newspapers to highlight the skin of his subjects, thereby including traces of the country’s history on the canvas. With this technique, Taku is hoping to document what is happening currently around him as he is creating, explaining that he hopes that ‘anyone who sees my paintings a hundred years to come will still be able to have an idea of what happened during Taku’s era’ iii.

    “The importance of capturing two figures in juxtaposition was to create a sense of consolidation, synergy and unity.”
    — Emmanuel Taku

    Left: Malick Sidibé, Pretending to Smoke, 1976
    © Malick Sidibé Estate

    Right: The present lot

    Drawing inspiration from fellow artists such as Toyin Ojin Odutola and Frida Kahlo, to the works of Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, Taku’s portraits capture Black subjects that radiate vitality, emphasising the strength of an united community. Reminiscent of Sidibé’s Pretending to Smoke (1976), Taku’s Brothers in Red adapts a similar compositional arrangement, with two men posing in an unified, confrontational stance. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Taku’s paintings also depict a generation of black youth that are adorned with vivid colour and hypnotic patterns, pushing the boundaries of representation in black portraiture and reclaiming a collective visual identity, as he elevates his subjects into mythical heroes: ‘I think I am deeply excited about our re-possessive narrative and that this idea of black people depicting black bodies feels like an awakening of sorts. And what I mean by “re-possessive” is reclaiming the way we are depicted as black people and is a juxtaposition that stems from being a person of colour, and African myself.’iv

    Collector’s Digest


    Born 1986 in Accra, Ghana, Emmanuel Taku graduated from the Ghanatta Institute of Art and Design alongside well-known figurative painters Amoako Boafo, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, and Kwesi Botchway, and has been painting for over a decade. With a degree in Visual Arts and Textiles, Taku uses a variety of materials in his work, such as acrylic, textiles, and newspaper on canvas, culminating into distinctive portraits that draw on figurative Surrealism.


    In 2021, Taku signed with Maruani Mercier Gallery for worldwide representation. The artist’s inaugural show with the gallery, The Chosen Few, had featured works made during his residency at Noldor in Accra, Ghana. Taku’s first solo exhibition in Asia, It Takes Two - Temple of Deities, was held at the M Art Foundation, Shanghai from 12 November - 18 December 2021, also in collaboration with The Noldor Residency, Accra. Embodiment, the artist's current solo exhibition with LGDR Hong Kong, opened 19 May and is onling till 30 June, 2022.


    Most recently, Taku’s Sisters in Lilac (2021), sold on 4 March 2022 for £214,200 at Phillips London, breaking the artist’s previous auction record:


    The artist’s current top auction record
    Emmanuel Taku, Sisters in Lilac, 2021
    Sold for £214,200 (Premium) at Phillips London, 4 March 2022


    Emmanuel Taku, quoted in M Art Foundation, ‘M Art Foundation “Emmanuel Taku: It Takes Two – Temple of Deities”: A Story about Superheroes’, 23 November 2021, online

    ii ibid.

    iii ibid.

    iv Emmanuel Taku, quoted in Institute Museum of Ghana, ‘Gideon Appah interviews Emmanuel Taku – Noldor Fellow’, 2020, online

    • Provenance

      Noldor Residency, Accra
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Accra, Noldor Artist Residency, Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two, 4 December 2020 - 17 January 2021

    • Literature

      Melanie Gerlies, 'Magritte bought for £6,000 could fetch £15m', Financial Times, 3 December 2020, online (illustrated)
      Romina Román, 'Emmanuel Taku: Ghana’s Finest and Brightest', Metal Magazine, 7 January 2021, online (illustrated)
      Meghan Grech, 'Black Identity and Power: Emmanuel Taku’s Mixed Media Portraiture', Casper Magazine, 10 February 2021, online (illustrated)
      'Noldor Residency Offers Boost for Artist's Mind and Body of Work', FLYafrica, Issue 10, April - June 2021, p. 23 (illustrated)
      Cristina Samper, 'Feel Hypnotised with the Gaze and Clothes in Emmanuel Taku’s Subjects', artofchoice, 28 June 2021, online


Brothers in Red

signed and dated 'TAKU 2020' on the reverse
acrylic and newspaper on canvas
211.8 x 143.2 cm. (83 3/8 x 56 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$1,512,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022