PORTRAYING A MAN who appears to have just turned his reluctant, yet penetrating gaze to the viewer, “Six Birds in the Bush” (2015) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye set a new auction record for the British-Ghanaian artist at The Now Evening Auction at Sotheby’s London on Oct. 13.

Bidding started at 850,000 pounds and blew past the estimate selling to a phone bidder for $3.6 million (2,952,000 British Pounds), nearly doubling the existing high mark for Yiadom-Boakye’s work. In addition, the result established the highest price at auction for a work by a Black British female artist, according to Sotheby’s..

Yiadom-Boakye’s previous record was achieved at Christie’s New York on May 11, 2021, when “Diplomacy III” (2009), a monumental painting featuring 13 figures, sold for $1,950,000.


Lot 5: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE (b. 1977), “Six Birds in the Bush,” 2015 (oil on linen, 200 X 130 cm / 78 3/4 by 51 1/8 inches). | Estimate 1.2 million-1.8 million British Pounds. Sold for $3,602,765 (2,952,000 British Pounds) fees included. RECORD


ON VIEW EARLIER THIS YEAR, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League With the Night” was the artist’s largest survey to date. Presented at Tate Britain in London, the initial showing in 2020 was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. After touring other European museums, the exhibition reopened at the Tate in fall 2022. The show featured about 70 works produced from 2003 to present, including “Six Birds in the Bush.”

The image is recognizable to anyone following the artist’s work. The painting illustrated the cover of the catalog that accompanied the Tate show.

Yiadom-Boakye is known for her timeless, poetic portrayals of fictional subjects. She explained how she approaches the paintings in a video exploring the exhibition. “They’re not of people that I know or that are there or that are specific. They’re built out of many different people or things or thoughts or images that I’ve found or images that I’ve drawn or in some part memory,” Yiadom-Boakye said.

“I never wanted it to be pinned down to a particular time. I think the timelessness is important. There’s a universality to that. Sometimes when things suggest a particular time it becomes concerned with that. I don’t feel concerned with that, I don’t want to be concerned with that because I think what I’m talking about transcends time. It’s everlasting. There is no end to this era.”

“They’re not of people that I know or that are there or that are specific. They’re built out of many different people or things or thoughts or images that I’ve found or images that I’ve drawn or in some part memory.”
— Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

THE SOTHEBY’S AUCTION featured 21 lots and the record-setting result for “Six Birds in the Bush” was the second-highest price in the sale. It was narrowly surpassed by George Condo’s “Multicolored Female Composition” (2016), which sold for $3,652,803 (2,993,000 British Pounds).

Paintings by three other Black female artists were also featured in the auction. Abstract paintings by British artists Michaela Yearwood-Dan and Jadé Fadojutimi were offered. Fadojutimi’s “Cradled” (2018) sold for $602,291 (495,300 British Pounds). “Nuestro Planeta Roto” (2019) by Yearwood-Dan reached $232,495 (190,500 British Pounds), nearly three times the estimate. Meanwhile, “Jonathan” (2014) from American artist Jordan Casteel’s Visible Man series, went unsold. CT


Installation view of “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League with the Night,” Tate Britain, London (2020). Shown, from left, “Six Birds In The Bush” (2015) and “Penny For Them (2014). | Photo by Seraphina Neville for Tate


FIND MORE about Lynette Yiadom-Boakye on Instagram


READ MORE about artist’s resale rights: Resale rules have become the art world norm: what are they and are they enforceable? via Art Newspaper


“Six Birds In The Bush” covers the exhibition catalog “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night.” Released earlier this month, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” features texts by the artist, along with writer and filmmaker Kodwo Eshun, and curator Lekha Hileman Waitoller. “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher” was published on the occasion of the artist’s solo show at the New Museum in New York. Also consider, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations,” which documents the artist’s first-ever solo museum show, which was presented at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2010-11.


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