Christie’s Hong Kong, Dec. 1, 2021

 

A STRIKING PORTRAIT by Amoako Boafo, “Hands Up” (2018) features a stylish young woman wearing yellow sunglasses against a yellow background. The painting sold for more than $3 million, nearly 10 times the estimate and an astounding new record at auction for the fast-rising artist.

The record-setting result at Christie’s Hong Kong in December 2021, more than tripled Boako’s previous auction record, reached a year earlier in December 2020 when “Baba Diop” (2019) sold for more than $1.1 million at a Christie’s Worldwide sale. In that painting, Boafo depicts his subject, a Harlem-born artist and model of Senegalese decent, relaxing on a sofa wearing a loose-fitting yellow top and pants.

Earlier this month, two more paintings by Boafo eclipsed the million dollar threshold at auction. “Yellow Blanket” is a nude self portrait of the artist reclining on a yellow blanket while reading a book. In “Orange Shirt” his subject is a woman outfitted in an all-over fruit print shirt paired with yellow pants against a yellow backdrop.

The work of young artists, particularly young Black artists with figurative practices, is currently a hot commodity at auction. Collectors and speculators are buying works from galleries or directly from the artists and in short order reselling them at auction for handsome profits that don’t directly benefit their makers.

When it comes to Boafo’s paintings, portraits with yellow palettes have attracted the highest bids. A color associated with joy and optimism, yellow appears frequently in Boafo’s work and has been an ever present factor in auction sales since his debut at Phillips in 2020. The artist’s top five lots at auction all sold at Christie’s and are dominated by the color yellow.

When it comes to Amoako Boafo’s paintings, portraits with yellow palettes have attracted the highest bids. The artist’s top five lots at auction all sold at Christie’s and are all dominated by the color yellow.

 


Art Basel Miami Beach 2019 (Nova Section): Installation view of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery booth featuring solo presentation of paintings by Amoako Boafo. | Photo: Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

 

A HIGHLY SOUGHT ARTIST whose work is among the most popular on the secondary market in terms of up-and-coming figures, Boafo was born in Ghana and splits his time between Accra and Vienna. The beauty of Blackness and the joy and individuality of Black people are Boafo’s central concerns. His portraits of friends, fellow creatives he admires, and periodically himself, have struck a chord, earning the artist international attention, critical recognition, and premium opportunities.

Represented by Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Chicago and Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, Boafo was an artist-in-residence at the Rubell Museum in Miami in 2019. While in Miami, he met Dior Homme Artistic Director Kim Jones, a connection that led to a collaboration on Dior men’s spring/summer 2021 collection. One of the signature pieces is a yellow turtleneck sweater featuring one of his portraits. Last August, the artist’s work was launched into space when he was selected to paint a triptych on the exterior of one of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rockets.

After opening at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco in October, “Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks,” the artist’s first solo museum exhibition, travels to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston on May 27.

Boafo’s work is immediately recognized by the tactile manner in which he renders Black skin, using his fingers to create a textural network of meandering and overlapping strokes in umber brown paint with hints of red, yellow, or blue visible just below the surface.

On occasion, Boafo employs prints for his subject’s outfits, but his compositions are defined by fields of vivid color, serving as backgrounds and clothing. He works with a spectrum of hues. His use of a radiant, marigold yellow has consistently stood out, aligning with the uplift and visibility imbued in his portraits.

In 2019, Roberts Projects presented “Amoako Boafo: I See Me,” the artist’s first solo gallery exhibition in the United States. Among the portraits on view, “Yellow Turtleneck” (2018), a tone-on-tone portrait of a young man in a marigold turtleneck against a muted yellow background, was selected to grace the cover of the exhibition catalog.

The walls of his exhibitions have also been painted marigold to complement his work. When Mariane Ibrahim participated for the first time at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair in 2019, the gallery’s booth was dedicated to a solo show of Boafo with the main wall painted marigold. This was also the case at MoAD last fall, where the accent walls of “Soul of Black Folks” were marigold.

Boafo’s work appeared in a major auction for the first time only two years ago at Phillips London. That first lot featured “The Lemon Bathing Suit” (2019), a portrait of a woman with her gray hair styled in a top knot while lounging on a white pool float in tranquil blue pool water. She is wearing a one-piece, yellow lemon-print bathing suit. The painting sold for $881,550 (about 13 times the high estimate), which stands as the artist’s sixth highest result at auction.

“I am not sure how a poet will explain to you how words function or a musician explaining sound. I can’t find the right words to explain how colors function in my work. All I know is it plays a vital role,” Boafo said in an interview with Culture Type the same year “The Lemon Bathing Suit” was produced. “…It’s just organic and, most of the time, I just get it right.”

 

* All auction results include Buyer’s Premium fees, unless otherwise noted. Estimates do not include fees. Sources: Artprice and Christie’s

 
Amoako Boafo’s Top Five results at auction follow:
 

1. “Hands Up” (2018) $3.4 million

Christie’s Hong Kong, 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale, Dec. 1, 2021
Lot 23: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Hands Up,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 187 x 148.6 cm / 73 1⁄2 x 58 1⁄2 inches).
Estimate HKD 2,000,000-3,000,000. SOLD for HKD 26,650,000 (US$ 3,420,367) fees included. RECORD

Holding Amoako Boafo’s current record, “Hands Up” (2018) presents a complex message. His subject’s hand gesture suggests she’s striking a pose, expressing joy, or maybe even dancing. At the same time, her positioning could be defensive stance, with the title directly referencing the “hands up, don’t shoot” phrase and gesture brought about by the injustice, trauma, and death faced by Black people interacting with police.

 

2. “Yellow Blanket” (2018) $1.6 million

Christie’s London, 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, March 1, 2022
Lot 31: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Yellow Blanket,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 63 x 803⁄4 inches / 160 x 205cm). | Estimate 400,000-600,000 British Pounds. SOLD for 1,242,000 British Pounds (US$ 1,653,982) fees included

Amoako Boafo has gained an international following. A self-portrait, “Yellow Blanket” was offered by Christie’s London. The other four top lots sold in Hong Kong and Shanghai, evidence of the growing interest in the work of Black artists in the Asian market.

 

3. “Orange Shirt” (2019) $1.4 million

Christie’s Shanghai, 20th/21st Century: Shanghai Evening Sale, March 1, 2022
Lot 7: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Orange Shirt,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 64 x 60 inches / 162.6 x 152.4 cm). | Estimate CNY 3,000,000-5,000,000. SOLD for CNY 8,760,000 ($1,387,697) fees included

Amoako Boafo’s “Orange Shirt” (2019) sold for $212,500 at Christie’s New York on July 10, 2020. Earlier this month, the same painting was bid up to $1.4 million.

 

4. “Baby Diop” (2019) $1.1 million

Christie’s Worldwide, 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York, Dec. 2, 2020
Lot 2: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Baba Diop,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 83 1/8 x 66 inches / 211 x 167.5 cm). | Estimate HKD 800,000-1,500,000. SOLD for 8,890,000 (US$ 1,146,818)

“Baba Diop” portrays Harlem-born artist and model Baba Diop, who is of Senegalese heritage. Amoako Boafo’s portrait is derived from an image of Diop modeling clothes from Bode’s spring/summer 2019 collection. In the original image, he is posing on a mint green sofa wearing a yellow print shirt and pants.

 

5. “Justine Mendy” (2018) $1.1 million

Christie’s Hong Kong, 20th and 21st Century Art Evening Sale, May 24, 2021
Lot 41: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Justine Mendy,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 160 x 133 cm / 63 x 52 3/8 inches). | Estimate HKD 800,000-1,500,000. SOLD for HKD 8,770,000 (US$ 1,129,443) fees included

An early collector of Amoako Boafo’s work, Justine Mendy is the founder of Association Zones Rurales Emergentes. AZRE Senegal focuses on rural development through education and culture. CT

 

READ MORE About the fast rise of Amoako Boafo in a profile by Nate Freeman published by Artnet News that provides details about his experience with art “advisers,” collectors, and the auction market

READ MORE Last fall, Amoako Boafo spoke to T: The New York Times Style Magazine about how he works with color

 

FIND MORE The New York Times recently reported on Fairchain, a new tech start-up using digital contracts and certificates of title and authenticity to help artists obtain resale royalties

FIND MORE A recent report published in the Times explores how Speculators Win Big With Bets on Young Artists

FIND MORE Pantone’s 2021 Color of the Year was an Enduring Gray and Illuminating Yellow, which was described as optimistic, aspirational, and hopeful

 

BOOKSHELF
Roberts Projects published a catalog to accompany Amoako Boafo’s first exhibition with the gallery in 2019 (now sold out). Boafo is also among the many artists featured in the recently published volume “African Artists: From 1882 to Now.” In 2001, “Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow” was published to accompany a traveling exhibition organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The volume includes an essay by Richard J. Powell titled “The Color of Ecstasy.”

 

SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent art history project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.