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Amoako Boafo

By Andrianna Campbell-LaFleur for Wall Street Journal

Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo, who lives in Vienna and studies at the Academy of Fine Arts there, was virtually unknown in the United States until the painter Kehinde Wiley contacted him in 2018 via Instagram. Wiley sent a short note and a line of encouragement and eventually an introduction to his Los Angeles dealers, Julie and Bennett Roberts of Roberts Projects. Boafo soon had a solo show at the gallery, and another is scheduled for next year. Bennett Roberts recalls unpacking Boafo’s paintings for the first time, likening the feeling to Christmas morning. The Robertses, who hadn’t seen the work in person before, had placed their trust in Wiley, whom they have been showing since 2002. “As [the paintings] were unrolled, it was something beyond special,” Bennett Roberts says. “You wait for magic to happen. Everyone hopes for that.”

“I like human expression,” says Boafo, 36, who has been sequestering for much of 2020 in his hometown of Accra. “That’s my starting point.” Although Boafo’s work is often compared to that of the Vienna Secession painters, there’s also a kinship with contemporary artists like Jordan Casteel, Peter Doig, Janiva Ellis, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Andy Roberts, Amy Sherald, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Matthew Wong. Boafo’s rise has been fast and steep. Last year, he signed with Chicago gallery Mariane Ibrahim, and by the time the gallery hung his solo booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach last December, there was already a lot of buzz around his bright, lush paintings. His Roberts Projects show, for example, featured a series of works dominated by the color yellow.