Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, once facing challenges, now dazzles as a global art star. His amazing finger-painted portraits of black people, some even in space, sell for millions. From a modest beginning to big exhibitions, Boafo’s journey reflects a growing wave of West African artists. Mixing old-style portraits with modern vibes, his art clicks in today’s social media world. Boafo goes beyond art, helping his community with residencies. His story, a modern rags-to-riches tale, unfolds in a changing art scene, where diversity and expressing yourself become the main act. (Source: BBC)

Amoako Boafo, a big art star now, is in Ghana where they’re showing one of his self-portraits. He told reporter Stephen Smith that he didn’t plan to be an artist.

Amoako Boafo is a successful artist, but he doesn’t like talking about it much. Even though he’s not yet 40, his paintings are shown in big galleries, and a famous art dealer named Larry Gagosian thinks he’s the “future of portraiture.”

Boafo used to draw superheroes with his friends when he was young, but being an artist wasn’t something he thought about back then. Growing up in Accra, Ghana, he didn’t realize that artists of color could focus on portraiture.

Now, his life has changed a lot. He had a tough start, growing up poor and helping his mom and grandma. But today, his paintings of black people, painted with his fingers, can sell for a lot of money at auctions – sometimes millions!

His art even went to space on Jeff Bezos’s rocket, making him one of the first artists to show their work in space. It’s a real-life story of going from rags to riches.

Boafo is like a shining star among many talented artists from West Africa. What’s cool is how they all recognize each other’s skills and work together.

He recently went back to Accra to see how an artist residency at his studio was going. He was also part of a group art show in Ghana’s capital.

Boafo is usually busy, traveling from Vienna to different places for art projects. He was born in 1984, and sadly, his dad died when he was very little. His mom worked as a cook, and he started teaching himself to paint when she wasn’t home.

He was good at tennis and even played semi-pro for a while to support himself. It wasn’t until someone his mom worked for offered to pay for his art school that he got the chance to go. He did really well and graduated as the Best Portrait Painter of the Year in 2008 from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra.

In 2014, he moved to Europe with an artist named Sunanda Mesquita, who later became his wife.

Boafo got a big chance in 2018 when Kehinde Wiley, the famous artist who painted a portrait of Barack Obama, found Boafo’s paintings on Instagram. Wiley liked Boafo’s work so much that he recommended him to the art galleries he works with.

When asked about Wiley’s support, Boafo said, “It was a huge moment for me. Wiley backed me in the early days of my career, and it motivated me to build connections and share spaces with other artists. I wanted to share experiences that could be helpful to them.

I visited Boafo at his studio near the sea, called dot.ateliers. The three-story building was designed by the famous Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye. It’s sandy-colored and made of tough breezeblock. The design allows cool sea breezes to flow through. Inside, a staircase winds up to Boafo’s workspace on the third floor, offering a view of the crashing waves and a funeral nearby.

The building’s roof looks like a cockscomb with three points, a bold nod to the crown motif in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings. Boafo went from selling his pictures for about £100 in Ghana to showcasing at international fairs, where people bid a lot for his work.

After the Black Lives Matter movement, museums and collectors realized they had few works by black artists. Boafo’s high-quality work became very sought after.

He’s flattered by the praise but doesn’t feel a lot of pressure. His success has let him help his community by providing resources through his residency. He contributed a self-portrait to an exhibition in Accra, showing himself from the back, maybe celebrating. He often paints with his fingertips and signed it “Amoako Boafo King.” It seems “King” might be a name he uses or the meaning of his name.

The gallery is owned by Marwan Zahkem, a Lebanese-born developer and art enthusiast, who was among the first to buy and showcase Boafo’s art.

He sees a movement in West Africa similar to the Young British Artists in the 1980s, and he compares Boafo to Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin in this new wave.

Osei Bonsu, a curator at London’s Tate Modern, featured Boafo in his new book African Art Now. Boafo’s painting “Yellow Dress” sold for £675,000, more than double its estimate. The highest price ever paid for Boafo’s work is currently £2.5m.

Bonsu explained that Boafo’s portraits capture a generation expressing themselves through selfies, connecting traditional portraiture with today’s social media age.

Boafo himself prefers painting over talking about it. He paints because he loves creating. While tasks outside the studio may not stress him, they’re less exciting, except for tennis, which he enjoys.

Source: BBC

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