A few years ago, Boafo was in Accra, Ghana, struggling to sell works for $100 apiece to support his mother and grandmother. Now, he has been the headliner of the art world’s buzziest week of the year, with a suite of gigantic paintings at the Rubell Museum and a sold-out booth at the fair.
“Almost anywhere that I walk, I don’t manage to look at anything because people want to talk and give congratulations,” says Boafo.
Boafo was born in Accra in 1984 and lost his father at a young age. While his mother worked as a cook, Boafo stayed home and taught himself to paint. He never intended to be an artist. It wasn’t an option.
“It’s something that I wanted to do from the beginning, but in Ghana, we don’t have the arts infrastructure,” Boafo said. “You have to find those things yourself.”
After a few years of supporting himself as a semipro lawn tennis player, Boafo got the chance to go to art school when an older man his mother worked for offered to pay his tuition. He graduated from Accra’s Ghanatta College of Art and Design in 2008, taking home the Best Portrait Painter of the Year award. In 2014, he moved to Vienna with Sunanda Mesquita, the Austrian artist who is now his wife.
Many critics claim his rise to fame is also linked with a surge in interest towards Black Artists, following the Black Lives Matter movement. Whatever the case, it is great that his fantastic portraits are now available for the whole world to celebrate!