Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
London, United Kingdom
EducationCentral St. Martins, Falmouth University, Royal Academy of Art
Known forPainting
AwardsPinchuk Foundation Future Generation Prize

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (born 1977)[1] is a British painter and writer. She is best known for her portraits of fictitious subjects painted in muted colors. Her work has contributed to the renaissance in painting the black figure.

Early life and education[edit]

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye was born in London, UK where she currently lives and works.[2] Her parents worked as nurses for the National Health Service after emigrating from Ghana. Yiadom-Boakye attended Central St Martins College of Art and Design,[3] graduated from Falmouth College of Art in 2000, and completed an MA degree at the Royal Academy Schools in 2003.[1]



Yiadom-Boakye's work consists mostly of painted portraits of fictional black subjects. Her paintings are predominantly figurative with raw and muted colours. The characteristic dark palette of her work is known for creating a feeling of stillness that contributes to the timeless nature of her subjects. Her portraits of fictional individuals feature people reading, lounging and resting in traditional poses. Commentators have attributed some of the acclaim of Yiadom-Boakye’s work to its relatability. Much of the warm details that she brings to the depiction of her subjects’ (such as contemplative facial expressions and relaxed gesturing of their bodies) making their posture and mood relatable to many viewers. The artist strives to keep her subjects from being associated with a particular decade or time. This results in choices like not painting shoes on her subjects as footwear often serves as a time stamp.[4] These figures usually rest in front of ambiguous backgrounds, floating inside monochromatic dark hues. These cryptic but emotional backdrops remind commentators of old masters like Velasquez and Degas.[5]

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's style shifted slightly after the opening of her 2017 show "In Lieu of a Louder Love". The show featured a new, warmer color scheme. Her subjects in this show included more vibrant details such as a checkered, linoleum-floor, a bold headwrap and bathing suit and a yellow, orange and green background.[5]

Though each portrait generally only contains one person, they are typically presented in groups arranged like family portraits.[6] With her expressive representations of the human figure, the artist examines the formal mechanisms of the medium of painting and reveals political and psychological dimensions in her works, which focus on fictional characters who exist beyond our world in a different time and in an unknown location.[7] She paints figures that are intentionally removed from time and place, and has stated, “People ask me, ‘Who are they, where are they?’ What they should be asking is ‘What are they?’ ”[8]


For an artist, she is unusual in describing herself as a writer as much as a painter—her short stories and prosy poems frequently appear in her catalogues.[4]

Selected Exhibitions[edit]

  • 2005: Flowers Gallery included Yiadom-Boakye in its long-running West End exhibition programme "Artist of the Day", where works have been selected by leading contemporary artists since 1983.[9] The fast-paced, revolving two week exhibition schedule provides a platform for a selected group of artists each year, each presenting a one day solo exhibition at Flowers Gallery’s Mayfair location. Yiadom-Boakye was selected by Martin Maloney.
  • 2010: Any Number of Preoccupations, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York[10]
  • 2012: participated in the and 11th Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art, France[11]
  • 2012: Extracts and Versus, Chisenhale Gallery in London[10]
  • 2013: The Encyclopedic Palace, exhibited in The Central Pavilion at the 55th International Venice Biennale[2][12]
  • 2015:Verses After Dusk, a solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London[13]
  • 2015: participated in the 12th Sharjah Biennial in the UAE[14]
  • 2015: Capsule 03: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, at the Hause der Kunst in Munich[10]
  • 2015: Verses After Dark, at the Serpentine Gallery in London[10]
  • 2016: A Passion To A Principle, a solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel[15]
  • 2016: Sorrow for A Cipher, a solo exhibition at Corvi-Mora[16]
  • 2016: In Lieu of a Louder Love, at New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery, it featured 26 paintings and is named after one of the artist’s poems.
  • 2016: Stranger, Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art[10]
  • 2017: Under-Song For a Cipher, a solo show at the New Museum of Contemporary Art[17] The show opened in May 2017, and ran through September 3rd, 2017.[18] The show was profiled by Zadie Smith for The New Yorker in its June 2017 issue.[19]
  • 2017: Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection, a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern art in New York[10]
  • 2019: In Lieu Of A Louder Love, a solo show at Jack Shainman Gallery[20]
  • 2019: Ghana Freedom, Artiglierie section of the Arsenale in Venice, 58th International Venice Biennale[21]


Her work is included in the permanent collections of a number of institutions, including the Tate Collection, London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Miami Art Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Nasher Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of African Art, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw and London's Serpentine Sackler Gallery.[22]


  • 2006: The Arts Foundation Fellowship for Painting.
  • 2012: Pinchuk Foundation Future Generation Prize.
  • 2013: Shortlisted for the Turner Prize for her exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery[1][23]
  • 2018: Carnegie Prize at awarded at Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. Among the oldest and most prestigious awards in art, the Carnegie Prize honors the top paintings of the year.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Wright, Karen (8 November 2013). "In the studio: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, painter". The Independent. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b "LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE: The Love Within | Contemporary And". (in German). Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  3. ^ Cooke, Rachel (31 May 2015). "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: artist in search of the mystery figure". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b Smith, Zadie (2017-06-12). "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Imaginary Portraits". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  5. ^ a b c "LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE'S LOVELY, 'LOUDER' NEW PAINTINGS". AFROPUNK. 2019-01-16. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  6. ^ "What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week". The New York Times. 2019-01-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  7. ^ "Haus der Kunst - Detail". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  8. ^ Bollen, Christopher (2012-11-27). "Galleries - Interview Magazine". Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ a b c d e f Lynette Yiadom-Boyake. Under-song for a cipher. New York: New Museum New York. 2017. ISBN 9780915557141. OCLC 992527373.
  11. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Verses After Dusk". Wall Street International. 2015-05-07. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  12. ^ Hirsch, Faye (2015-06-25). "'Lynette Yiadom-Boakye'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  13. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist (1 June 2015)", Serpentine UK.
  14. ^ "GIBCA • Lynette Yiadom-Boakye". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  15. ^ "A Passion To A Principle • Kunsthalle Basel". Kunsthalle Basel. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  16. ^ Alice, Primrose (9 September 2016). "Our pick of this week's art events: 9 – 15 September". Royal Academy. The Royal Academy of Arts, London. Retrieved 1 December 2017. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Sorrow for a Cipher, Corvi-Mora Gallery, London, until 8 October
  17. ^ Bell, Natalie (4 March 2017). "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song For A Cipher". New Museum. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song For A Cipher". Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  19. ^ Smith, Zadie. "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Imaginary Portraits". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  20. ^ "JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY". Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  21. ^ Russeth, Andrew (2019-02-24). "Ghana Plans Venice Biennale Debut, with El Anatsui, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, More". ARTnews. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  22. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Verses After Dusk". Serpentine Galleries. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  23. ^ Extracts and Verses.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Online version is titled "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s imaginary portraits".