Christie’s Hong Kong, December 1, 2021
A STRIKING PORTRAIT by Amoako Boafo, “Hands in the air” (2018) features an elegant young woman wearing yellow sunglasses against a yellow background. The painting sold for over $3 million, nearly 10 times the estimate and a stunning new auction record for the burgeoning artist.
The record 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 over $1.1 million at a Christie’s Worldwide sale. In this painting, Boafo depicts his subject, a Harlem-born artist and model of Senegalese decent, relaxing on a couch wearing a baggy yellow top and pants.
Earlier this month, two other paintings by Boafo surpassed the million dollar mark at auction. “Yellow Blanket” is a nude self-portrait of the artist reclining on a yellow blanket while reading a book. In “Orange Shirt” its subject is a woman dressed in a shirt all over printed with fruit paired with yellow trousers on a yellow background.
The work of young artists, especially young black artists with figurative practices, is currently a rare commodity at auction. Collectors and speculators buy works from galleries or directly from artists and resell them in a short time at auction for handsome profits that do not directly benefit their creators.
As for 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 a ubiquitous factor in auctions since his debut at Phillips in 2020. The artist’s top five lots at auction are all sold at Christie’s and are dominated by the color yellow. .
When it comes to paintings by Amoako Boafo, portraits with yellow palettes have attracted the highest bids. The artist’s top five auction lots were all sold at Christie’s and are all dominated by the color yellow.
A HIGHLY SOUGHT-AFTER ARTIST who is among the most popular emerging figures in the secondary market, Boafo was born in Ghana and divides 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, creative colleagues he admires, and periodically of himself, have struck a chord, bringing the artist international attention, critical recognition and exceptional opportunities.
Represented by Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Chicago and Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, Boafo was artist-in-residence at the Rubell Museum in Miami in 2019. In Miami, he met Dior Homme artistic director Kim Jones, a connection that led to cooperation on Dior spring/summer 2021 men’s collection. One of the iconic pieces is a yellow turtleneck sweater depicting one of his portraits. Last August, the artist’s work was launched into space when he was selected for paint a triptych outside one of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rockets.
After the opening at the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco in October, “Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks”, the artist’s first solo exhibition in a museum, goes to the Houston Museum of Contemporary Art May 27.
Boafo’s work is immediately recognized by the tactile manner in which he renders skin black, using his fingers to create a textural network of winding, overlapping strokes in umber-brown paint with hints of red, yellow or of blue visible just below the surface.
On occasion, Boafo uses prints for his subject’s outfits, but his compositions are defined by bright fields of color, serving as background and clothing. It works with a range of shades. His use of a radiant marigold yellow always stood out, aligning with the joy and visibility imbued in his portraits.
In 2019, Roberts Projects presented “Amoako Boafo: I see myself” the artist’s first solo gallery exhibition in the United States. Among the portraits exhibited, “Yellow Turtleneck” (2018), a tone-on-tone portrait of a young man in a marigold turtleneck against a hushed yellow background, was selected to adorn the cover of the exhibition catalog.
The walls of his exhibits were also painted marigold to complement his work. When Mariane Ibrahim first participated in the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair in 2019, the gallery stand was dedicated to a personal exhibition of Boafo with the main wall painted marigold. This was also the case at the MoAD last fall, where the accent walls of “Black Soul” were worries.
Boafo’s work first appeared at a major auction just two years ago at Phillips London. This first batch included “The Lemon Swimsuit” (2019), a portrait of a woman with her gray hair styled in a bun while lounging on a white pool float in the tranquil blue water of the swimming pool. She wears a yellow lemon print one-piece swimsuit. The painting sold for $881,550 (about 13 times the high estimate), representing the artist’s sixth highest result at auction.
“I don’t know how a poet will explain to you how words work or a musician will explain sound to you. I can’t find the right words to explain how colors work in my work. All I know is that it plays a vital role,” Boafo said in an interview with Culture Type the same year “The Lemon Bathing Suit” was produced. “…It’s just organic and, most of the time, I just do things.” CT
* All auction results include buyer’s premium fees unless otherwise stated. Quotes do not include fees. Sources: Artprice and Christie’s
READ MORE About Amoako Boafo’s rapid rise in a Nate Freeman profile published by Artnet News, who provides details of his experience with art “advisors”, collectors and the auction market
READ MORE Last fall, Amoako Boafo spoke with T: The New York Times Style Magazine on how he works with color
Christie’s Hong Kong, 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale, December 1, 2021
Batch 23: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Hands Up”, 2018 (oil on canvas, 187 x 148.6 cm / 73 1⁄2 x 58 1⁄2 inches).
Estimate between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 HKD. SOLD for 26,650,000 HKD (3,420,367 US$) including fees. DISK
Holding Amoako Boafo’s current record, “Hands Up” (2018) presents a complex message. Her subject’s hand gesture suggests she is striking a pose, expressing joy, or perhaps even dancing. At the same time, its positioning could be defensive, with the title directly referring to the “hands up, don’t shoot” phrase and gesture prompted by the injustice, trauma and death faced by black people interacting with the police.
Christie’s London, 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, March 1, 2022
Batch 31: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Yellow Blanket”, 2018 (oil on canvas, 63 x 803⁄4 inches / 160 x 205 cm). | Estimate between £400,000 and £600,000. SOLD for 1,242,000 Pounds Sterling (1,653,982 US$) including fees
Amoako Boafo has gained an international following. A self-portrait, “Yellow Blanket” was donated by Christie’s London. The other four top lots sold in Hong Kong and Shanghai, proof of the growing interest in the work of black artists in the Asian market.
Christie’s Shanghai, 20th/21st Century: Shanghai Evening Sale, March 1, 2022
Batch 7: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Orange shirt”, 2019 (oil on canvas, 64 x 60 inches / 162.6 x 152.4 cm). | Estimate between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 CNY. SOLD for 8,760,000 CNY ($1,387,697) including fees
“Orange Shirt” by Amoako Boafo (2019) sold for $212,500 at Christie’s New York on July 10, 2020. Earlier this month, the same painting was offered for up to $1.4 million.
Christie’s Worldwide, 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York, December 2, 2020
Batch 2: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Baba Diop”, 2019 (oil on canvas, 83 1/8 x 66 inches / 211 x 167.5 cm). | Estimate between 800,000 and 1,500,000 HKD. SOLD for 8,890,000 (1,146,818 US$)
“Baba Diop” portrays Harlem-born artist and model, Baba Diop, of Senegalese descent. The portrait of Amoako Boafo is derived from a image of model Diop’s clothes from Bode’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection. In the original image, he poses on a mint green couch wearing a yellow print shirt and pants.
Christie’s Hong Kong, 20th and 21st Century Art Evening Sale, May 24, 2021
Batch 41: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Justine Mendy”, 2018 (oil on canvas, 160 x 133 cm / 63 x 52 3/8 inches). | Estimate between 800,000 and 1,500,000 HKD. SOLD for 8,770,000 HKD (1,129,443 US$) including fees
An early collector of Amoako Boafo, Justine Mendy is the founder of Emerging Rural Areas Association. AZRE Senegal focuses on rural development through education and culture.
READ MORE A recent report published in the New York Times explores how Speculators win big betting on young artists
LEARN MORE Pantone Color of the year 2021 was an enduring gray and an illuminating yellow, which was described as optimistic, ambitious and hopeful
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 released volume. “African Artists: 1882–Present.”
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