In recent years, figurative painting by African and Afro-diasporic artists has become increasingly important on the European as well as the US art market. Among its representatives is the Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo. With his new approaches to the depiction of black people and their placement in a larger global context, he is considered a remarkable young voice in contemporary art. Auction house Philipps auctioned Boafo's painting The Lemon Bathing Suit in February 2020 for the equivalent of about 810,000 euros. It depicts a Black woman in sunglasses wearing a white bathing suit with lemons on it. She lies relaxed on a white air mattress, which in turn appears to be in a pool. Also in 2020, Boafo's works served as a template for the men's summer collection of the French luxury fashion brand Dior. Other works are now part of the collections of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, among others. How did he and his art make it there so quickly?
Amoako Boafo - A figurative painter from Ghana takes off
The Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo paints exclusively Black people to honor these characters in the pictorial tradition of portraiture. In doing so, he is putting a whole new stamp on figurative art. And it's catching on: In February 2022, one of his paintings was auctioned for around 1,264,000 euros.
The Lemon Bathing Suit by Amoako Boafo
The rapid ascent to record-breaking heights
Amoako Boafo was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1984 and studied at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra between 2004 and 2007. In 2014, he moved to Austria to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Artists such as Ashley Hans Scheirl and Kirsi Mikkola were among his teachers there. During this time, he was much involved with 20th century Viennese modernist works as well as European Art Nouveau. In particular, the works of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt had a lasting influence on him. In 2018, Boafo came to the attention of African-American artist Kehinde Wiley via the social media platform Instagram. He purchased one of his artworks and made connections with various galleries. Among other things, this led to Boafo's solo exhibition I See Me at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles. Since then, at the latest, his art has also caused a stir internationally. In March of this year, for example, his painting Orange Shirt was auctioned off at Christie's auction house in Shanghai for the equivalent of around 1,264,000 euros. It depicts a black person on a yellow background, confidently putting their hands on their hips and wearing a black top on which oranges are depicted. But what actually makes his art so desirable?
»In recent years, there has been an increased interest in African and African-American art on the art market, but also at some major art exhibitions. On the one hand, this art was underrepresented for a long time; on the other hand, in times of 'diversity' and the questioning of the traditional art canon, the need to appreciate this art is great. Figurative painting by black artists seems to be selling particularly well right now,« Günther Oberhollenzer, curator of the Landesgalerie Niederösterreich comments on derstandard.de. Oberhollenzer is also a jury member for the Strabag Art Award, an international art promotion prize that Boafo received in 2019. In addition, the debates surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the social position of BIPOCs (Black, Indeginous and People of Color) in the U.S. and the world may also have played a role.
Orange Shirt by Amoako Boafo
A finished picture in the mind that only needs to be put on canvas
It is precisely these people who play the leading role in Boafo's art. He portrays Black people exclusively, using painting to create his fascinating figures and honoring the role of Black characters in the pictorial tradition of portraiture. His artistic practice encapsulates how art reflects the power of representation, sustains it, and encourages reflection on diversity and complexity. Themes of Black representation, vulnerability, pride, and self-determination form the core of his work, in which he negates the objectifying and dehumanizing representation of Black people. »The primary idea of my practice is representation, documenting, celebrating, and showing new ways to approach Blackness,« Boafo is quoted as saying on the Roberts Projects Gala website.
He produces his clear, figurative portraits with oil paint against flat, colorful backgrounds and abstract interiors. While he paints the faces and hands of his figures directly onto the canvas with his bare fingers, other pictorial components are created with an expressive, thick brushstroke. This results in a structural contrast in his works that constitutes his distinctive style. The figures depicted are often captivating because of their serene poses, their gaze usually taking center stage. Due to the sensitivity with which Boafo renders his subjects, they always radiate appreciation. His paintings are described as virtuosic, intense, and sensual. With an easy familiarity, they express the dynamics of daily life. Boafo hardly leaves anything to chance: »Actually, the picture is ready before I even start painting. It is created in my head. I know beforehand what it will become,« he explains in an interview with Deutsche Welle.
Some auction results of the works of Amoaka Boafo
Dive deeper into the art world
Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, the first solo museum exhibition by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, opens at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston on May 27. On view through Oct. 2, it shows more than 30 of the painter's works which explore themes of black representation, vulnerability, pride and self-determination.
The British artist Nina Mae Fowler is known for her partly large-format pencil and charcoal drawings, mostly made in black and white. Her works frequently show prominent actors and actresses in extraordinary, fateful, often tragic moments. Her outstanding works include complex compositions in which she brings together motifs from a wide variety of temporal and narrative levels in one scene - elaborate works that are developed over a long period of time and are therefore rare and sought-after. Now, with I walk alone, Fowler presented yet another such masterpiece.