“The Hours Behind You” (2011) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye


A MESMERIZING IMAGE of five black women attracted record-breaking interest at Sotheby’s New York on Nov. 16. “The Hours Behind You” (2011) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye sold for $1,575,000 (including fees), a world record for the British-Ghanaian painter, according to Sotheby’s sales results. Estimated to attract bids in the realm of $250,000 to $350,000, the lot yielded four times its high estimate*.

The artist’s previous auction record was achieved on Oct. 16, 2015 at Christie’s London when “Knave,” which was also made in 2011, sold for more than $690,000 (including fees). The single portrait of a woman in an apricot-colored blouse glancing downward, appeared on the April 2012 cover of Frieze magazine.

YIADOM-BOAKYE PAINTS imagined characters that sprout from her imagination. Her paintings are beautiful and moody and are usually defined by spare surroundings with moments of bold or contrasting color. A large-scale painting, “The Hours Behind You” is full of energy and emotion, depicting a group of women bare foot, wearing simple white shift dresses or cotton night gowns, lost in a spirited dance.

Earlier this year, in Parkett 99, one of the last editions of the printed art magazine, Hilton Als wrote that he is drawn to the women in Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings. “I was raised in a family of women, and Lynette’s ‘The Hours Behind You’ (2011) is not far from what I saw them do together: celebrate their bodies, and thus one another, in a whirlwind of joy,” Als wrote.

“I was raised in a family of women, and Lynette’s ‘The Hours Behind You’ (2011) is not far from what I saw them do together: celebrate their bodies, and thus one another, in a whirlwind of joy.” — Hilton Als, Parkett

THE RECORD-BREAKING PAINTING, and two others by Yiadom-Boakye were consigned for sale at Sotheby’s by Ellen Stern of New York. The works were among more than 50 sold from the Jerome and Ellen Stern Collection at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auctions on Nov. 16 and 17. The lots included works by a number of other black artists—David Hammons, Simone Leigh, Wangechi Mutu, and Yinka Shonibare.

In September, the New York Times spoke to Stern in her Upper West Side apartment about the art collection she assembled with her husband over the past 60 years, and her decision to sell a significant number of works at auction. She said she was doing so because of tax obligations in the wake of her husband’s passing in March.

Asked about the paintings by Yiadom-Boakye that graced her walls, she said: “We saw her for the first time at the Studio Museum. There was something there, like a Goya. Then she started painting composite black people. In this one (“Vespers”), a woman is singing, she’s up in a cloud. I like the mystery about it.” CT


TOP IMAGE: Lot 26: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “The Hours Behind You” 2011 (oil on canvas). | Estimate $250,000-$350,000. Sold For $1,575,000 (including fees) RECORD


* Sotheby’s sale prices include premium fees, estimates do not account for fees.


READ MORE about artist resale rights


Published in 2014, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” surveyed her career to date. More recently, her first monograph, also titled, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” is rife with images of her captivating portraits. Documenting her New Museum exhibition in New York, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher” was published earlier this year.


Lot 441: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “A Consideration Like No Other,” 2011 (oil on canvas). | Estimate Estimate $80,000-$120,000. Sold for $337,500 (including fees)


Lot 450: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Oral Chapters,” 2010 (oil on canvas). | Estimate $100,000-$150,000. Sold for $118,750 (including fees)


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