Teju, 2019. Oil on Canvas. Gallerist: Mariane Ibrahim, Chicago.
Ghanian artist Amoako Boafo resides between Vienna, Austria, where he has lived since 2014, and Accra, Ghana where he was born in 1984. He never imagined that his childhood love for painting would turn into a career as an artist. After losing his father when he was very young, he was raised solely by his mother, who worked as a cook. As a child, he taught himself to paint at home while his mother was away at work.
Boafo began his career as a semi-pro lawn tennis player because although he wanted to be an artist, a solid arts infrastructure was non-existent in Ghana at the time. However, Boafo got his chance to attend art school at Accra’s Ghanatta College of Art and Design, graduating in 2008 after a man that his mother worked for offered to pay his tuition. Although he was awarded the best Portrait Painter of the Year at art school, it took Boafo a couple of years to establish his style and create a name for himself. But once it happened, it happened very quickly in what seemed like a whirlwind.
In 2017, Amoako Boafo started using his fingers to paint the faces of his portraits, which garnered him the 2017 Walter Koschatzky Art Award. But it was in 2018 when his big break came. Kehinde Wiley, who painted the official portrait of President Barack Obama, discovered Boafo’s Instagram page and purchased one of his works before tipping off the four galleries that represent him. In January 2019, he exhibited at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, under the advice of Kehinde Wiley (also represented by Roberts Projects), which ended up snowballing into a series of events and highly-impressed collectors who wanted Boafo’s work. In 2018, Mariane Ibrahim became acquainted with Boafo and started placing his works into collections, and in 2019 the official representation by Mariane Ibrahim began when she presented a solo exhibition at the famous Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019. This set the stage for Boafo to become a sensation in the art world, which many felt happened overnight.
Boafo’s portraits are of his friends and people he encounters — in Ghana, in Austria, and around the world. His subjects are Black, and the style with which he paints unites the sensory experiences of himself as a painter, the viewer, and the exuberant lived experiences of the subjects depicted in the paintings. Of his work, Boafo states: “the primary idea of my practice is representation, documenting, celebrating and showing new ways to approach Blackness.”
Widely collected by private and public collectors and institutions, most recently by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Blenheim Art Foundation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, CCS Bard College Hessel Museum of Art, The Albertina Museum Vienna, and the Rubell Museum.
As stated, Amoako Boafo is represented by Mariane Ibrahim, who is one of the most renowned collectors and gallerists of African and African American contemporary art. Her gallery is located in Chicago.