Phillip’s postwar and contemporary art evening sale on Thursday in London was less of a smashing success but a few standout lots garnered a lot of attention. The auction brought in a total of £21.1 million, barely topping its low estimate of £18.1 million.
Among the many great paintings sold was a particularly frenzied lot by the emerging artist Amoako Boafo, whose auction debut has been long-anticipated by many, including the artist himself. A 2019 portrait by Boafo titled The Lemon Bathing Suit, hammered down at 11 times its high estimate, or £675,000 with fees. The artist criticised the fact that his work was being sold at auction so quickly, despite only finishing the work less than a year ago. The seller is a notorious art dealer, collector and renowned “flipper”, Stefan Simchowitz.
Merely eight months after Boafo completed the work, which is a portrait of his friend’s mother floating in a swimming pool, Los Angeles based Simchowitz who originally bought the work directly from the artist, marked Boafo’s debut and has already set the threshold of his market.
Speaking to Bloomberg after the sale, Boafo lamented the sale: “It’s only sad. The painting is so recent.”
Simchowitz however scoffed at the idea that selling the work so soon will hurt Boafo’s career by saying that this “will be nothing but beneficial to the artist and his entire collector base and his future”. He added that he plans to use the proceeds from the sale to continue supporting emerging artists who have little to no support in the marketplace.
Boafo’s works are often portraits of friends and family mixing painting and collage and has largely been riding a broader wave of demand for works by black artists. Long overlooked and undervalued in the marketplace, they now occupy one of the hottest corners of the art market as collectors and institutions alike rush to diversify their collections.
Simchowitz is well known for buying works by young and emerging artists in bulk and then unloading them on the secondary market when their prices rise. Last year, a similar act unfolded when he sold three works by Tschabalala Self, which also included her first work at auction. Self made similar comments as Boafo, after the sale.
Boafo’s works have been extremely sought after and ended up selling within seconds in December at Art Basel Miami Beach, where hundreds of collectors were on a waiting list with prices ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. His dealers are now considering raising his prices for large-scale works, according to Bennett Roberts, whose LA based Roberts Projects gave Boafo his first solo show in the U.S last year.