In February, Phillips unveiled a painting in their London Contemporary art Evening sale by Ghanian-born, Vienna-based painter Amoako Boafo, marking the first time a canvas by the coveted primary-market artist surfaced at auction. The work achieved a total of £675,000 (US $881,550), far surpassing the presale estimate of £30,000–£50,000 (US $38,700–$64,500). Now, Phillips has another work by Boafo, the second to come to market to date, in a themed online contemporary sale of just 24 lots called Shaping the Surface.
Boafo’s Sleepy Lady, a work on paper completed in 2019, estimated at between £15,000–£20,000 leads the sale with an £85,000 bid, more than five times its low estimate. With bidding still open, few expect the sale to end with the 24 bids already cast. But time remains short. The sale ends at 2pm London time on Thursday, May 21.
The one-year-old work has already changed hands twice. The consignor purchased it from a private collection in Vienna. Similar to the artist’s widely recognized “Black Diaspora” series, a group of figurative portraits featuring Boafo’s approach to documenting Blackness and representing the black image, the work is a strong example of Boafo’s distinctive style. Boafo was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He cites modernist Egon Schiele’s portraiture as a key historical reference in his practice, and among contemporary influences, he names Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jordan Casteel, and Kerry James Marshall.
Boafo’s rise to prominence comes at the convergence of two market trends. One is the sustained demand for figurative painting; the other is a continuing interest in painters of African descent. That Boafo simultaneously draws inspiration from European modernism and imagery that has been missing from the vast canon of Eurocentric art history makes his work seem almost engineered for market success. And the response has been immediate, with works fresh off the primary market getting flipped at Phillips in direct reaction to marketing events like the 2019 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach.
Boafo’s star turn came with major backing from Miami-based contemporary collectors Don and Mera Rubell, who have added the 36-year-old artist’s work to the holdings in their private museum and selected him for their artist residency program funded by the Knight Foundation. Public institutions are also collecting his work. Last year, the City of Miami Beach bought Boafo’s Cobalt Blue Earring for $44,000 from Mariane Ibrahim gallery, and at Paris’s FIAC fair this past October, Ibrahim sold Boafo’s Monica (2019) for $18,000. A recipient of the Walter Koschatzky Art Prize in 2017, Boako’s institutional holdings include works in the permanent collection of Bard College’s Hessel Museum of Art and Vienna’s Albertina Museum.
Represented by Mariane Ibrahim gallery (of Chicago) and Roberts Projects (Los Angeles), which staged his U.S. showcase in January 2019, titled I See Me, he is also endorsed and collected by contemporary mainstays like Kehinde Wiley.