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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE MIETTINEN COLLECTION, BERLIN-HELSINKI

Yellow Blanket

Yellow Blanket
signed, inscribed and dated 'AMOAKO M BOAFO 2018 KING' (centre)
oil on canvas
63 x 803⁄4in. (160 x 205cm.)
Painted in 2018
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2018.
Berlin, The Miettinen Collection, Berlin-Helsinki Salon Dahlmann, Touch Me: Nudes from the Miettinen Collection, 2020.
Berlin, The Miettinen Collection, Berlin-Helsinki Salon Dahlmann, Amoako Boafo: The Gaze, An Exchange, 2019-2020.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Vice-Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Europe

Lot Essay

Spanning over two metres in width, Yellow Blanket (2018) is a superb large-scale self-portrait by Amoako Boafo. The artist depicts himself in elegant repose, absorbed in a book: reclined on the title’s yellow blanket, his lithe, supple figure has the grace of a neoclassical nude. Using his characteristic finger-painting technique—which he reserves for the flesh of his subjects—Boafo has marbled and massaged his body into being, blending a rich array of pigments, including flashes of teal, green and cobalt blue, into a vibrant, textured surface of swirling strokes. His skin is alive with touch. Distinctive ornamental details, such as green nail-polish, a silver nose-ring and a stud in the artist’s ear, bespeak an assured self-fashioning even in the absence of clothing. The blanket, meanwhile, is painted in lush brushstrokes of sunflower yellow; more paint fills out the taupe backdrop behind him, while other areas—including the book he is reading—have been left deliberately unfinished, with graphite lines sketching their construction. Against these planes, the artist emerges as a vivid, three-dimensional presence. Reflecting the formative influence of Egon Schiele, the work is a triumphant example of Boafo’s practice, whose primary idea, as he puts it, ‘is representation, documenting, celebrating and showing new ways to approach blackness’ (A. Boafo, quoted in V. L. Valentine, ‘Amoako Boafo is Latest Young Black Artist to Make Major Auction Debut’, Culture Type, 11 February 2020).

The artist Kirsi Mikkola, who taught Boafo at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, has described Yellow Blanket as ‘of groundbreaking art-historical importance.’ The work, she explains, shows Boafo as a man who ‘has the courage and self-possession to show his masculinity in a confident yet vulnerable way. He creates his own history, his own culture and thus moves our perception to a new direction, establishing a visual testimony beyond the confines of theory, ideology or judgement. He is a man in charge of his powers. Yellow Blanket is one of the first large-scale explorations into his finger-painting technique. The visceral treatment of the skin is in stunning contrast with the simple bright colour blocks. This is a gorgeous odalisque, deep in thought, oblivious to the outside gaze and safe in the authority of his own person.’

The work’s field of yellow is something of a motif for Boafo, appearing in other major paintings such as Hands Up (2018), Yellow Dress (2018) and Cobalt Blue Earring (2019). In the artist’s 2019 presentation at Art Basel Miami Beach, a feature wall was painted the same shade. The colour has come to be associated with Ghana, where Boafo was born, thanks to the distinctive ‘Kufuor gallon’ water containers ubiquitous there in the early 2000s: Boafo’s contemporary Serge Attukwei Clottey has made these a central component of his practice. Beyond this, however, Boafo’s yellow—and his luminous, graphic handling of pigment more generally—speaks to his engagement with the work of Egon Schiele. Having lived in Schiele’s hometown of Vienna since 2014, he has drawn constant inspiration from the masters of Viennese modernism. ‘I was most interested in seeing how he got his results’, he says of Schiele. ‘You could really see all the brushstrokes and colours he mixed to make a painting, unlike Klimt, [whose work is] very well mixed, realistic, and decorated, which is also good. I just want my paintings to be as free as possible, and Schiele gave me that vibe—the strokes, characters, and composition’ (A. Boafo, quoted in C. Manning, ‘Meet Amoako Boafo, the rising artist making his Art Basel debut’, Fashion Week Daily, 5 December 2019). In Yellow Blanket, which lays bare its materiality of paint and canvas, this freedom comes to the fore.

Shortly after his arrival in Vienna, some viewers implied that Boafo would have to stop painting black subjects in order to find success. The unhindered, matter-of-fact quality of Schiele’s work motivated him to persevere. ‘For a moment, I was like, “Okay”,’ he remembers. ‘But then I was like, “No. I’m painting myself, and it’s important that I paint myself. I don’t see why I, as a black person, am not good enough to be shown in a gallery.” Then I saw Schiele’s self-portrait, and it actually confirmed for me that I should keep painting what I was painting. It helped to see another artist just dealing with himself and the people around him’ (A Boafo, quoted in ibid.). Today, Boafo’s paintings have joined Schiele’s in the collection of Vienna’s Albertina Museum, and can also be seen in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Rubell Museum, Miami, among others. Yellow Blanket bears witness to his determination. It is a poised, regal self-portrayal, intelligent and introverted, sensual and at ease: a proud overturning of many Western stereotypes of black masculinity. While it refers to the language of art history, the painting is as individual as a human being. The organic, almost sculptural contact of the artist’s fingers—skin painted with skin—conveys his palpable joy in the expression and construction of self: Boafo’s blackness is not flat or monochrome, but dynamic, multifaceted and alive with possibility.

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