For Amoako Boafo, the best part of success is sharing it with his community, those who inspire him, and bringing along as many people as he can on his journey.
This past March, the Ghanaian artist had his New York solo debut with the mega-gallery Gagosian. Boafo, who is known for finger-dipped paintings depicting himself and Black people from Africa and its diaspora, said he’d received praise for the show, but he came out of the experience feeling as though something was missing.
“I was happy with the [reception] and how it turned out, but not having the family or people that I work with to enjoy the paintings as well—for me, it wasn’t enough,” Boafo said in an interview with ARTnews, speaking from Vienna. He wanted to find a way for “family to be able to be part of the conversation.”
His solution was to bring some of the pieces from the show this May back home to Accra. The show, which closed earlier this month, featured these works, as well as some new ones, at dot.ateliers, the art space he founded in 2022 that also hosts residencies and maintains an art library and studios.
“It’s important that the people that I make the painting for or with should have access to the painting,” Boafo said. “And also, for them to be part of the experience.”
Held in collaboration with Gagosian, Boafo’s dot.ateliers show is being billed as the first time that a Western commercial gallery has hosted an exhibition with an African artist on the continent.
Andrew Fabricant, chief operating officer of Gagosian, said that the Accra exhibition was borne out of Boafo informing the gallery of his decision not to sell one of the paintings in the New York show—with the intent to show it at an upcoming exhibition at his foundation in Ghana. They both thought it’d be a great idea to create some new works in addition to the particular painting, with Gagosian sponsoring the show alongside Boafo’s foundation.
“Too often, it’s been the case for almost all artists coming out of Africa recently. They get taken out of Africa and they get shown in the West, but there’s never any reciprocity, so we thought it was a great idea,” Fabricant remarked. “There was a huge audience in Accra, of course, so it was an idea that came about very easily, and it’s been very, very successful.” (At the moment, Boafo isn’t formally represented by Gagosian, but Fabricant shared that they are planning another show.)
Boafo’s quest to show his work in Ghana attests to his dedication to his home country, which tends to get lost in discussions of his art, the prices for it, and his celebrity. Rather than coasting by on fame, Boafo is using his star power to support Ghana’s art scene.
dot.ateliers is providing resources and access to opportunities for up-and-coming and emerging artists like Crystal Yayra Anthony, Zandile Tshabalala, and Dzidefo Amegatsey through its residency program. Yet even beyond that space, Boafo is leveraging his status to help other Ghanaian artists, like his friend Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, whose representation with Roberts Projects was made possible in part because Boafo encouraged him to spend some time in Los Angeles, away from his Portland, Oregon, base, so he could connect with more art world stakeholders.
“My feeling is, from the first time I met Amoako, he’s the kind of person that shares his success. Meaning if he’s successful, more people around him become more successful,” said Bennett Roberts, cofounder of Roberts Projects, which has represented Boafo since 2018. “This is a very unique character trait. I learned from the very beginning that he is a very particular person who does not want everything for himself.”