Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
London, United Kingdom
EducationCentral St. Martins, Falmouth University, Royal Academy of Art
Known forPainting, writing
AwardsCarnegie Prize

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (born 1977) is a British painter and writer. She is best known for her portraits of imaginary subjects, or ones derived from found objects, who are painted in muted colours. Her work has contributed to the renaissance in painting the Black figure. Her paintings often are presented in solo exhibitions.

Early life and career[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; however, she did not enjoy her time there [3] and so, moved to Falmouth College of Art where she eventually was awarded her undergraduate degree in 2000. She then completed an MA degree at the Royal Academy Schools in 2003.[1]

In 2010, her work was recognised by Okwui Enwezor, who gave her an exhibition at Studio Museum in Harlem.[4] She was among those nominated for the Turner prize in 2013.[5] In addition to her artwork, Yiadom-Boakye has taught at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University where she is a visiting tutor for their Master in Fine Arts programme.[6] Her influence as a painter was recognised in the 2019 Powerlist and she was subsequently listed among the "top 10" of the most influential people of African or African Caribbean heritage in the UK in 2020.[7][8]


Skylark (2010) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at the National Gallery of Art's showing of Afro-Atlantic Histories in Washington, DC in 2022


Yiadom-Boakye's work consists mostly of painted portraits of imaginary 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 imaginary individuals feature people reading, lounging, and resting in traditional poses. She brings to the depiction of her subjects contemplative facial expressions and relaxed gestures, making their posture and mood relatable to many viewers. Commentators have attributed some of the acclaim of Yiadom-Boakye’s work to this relatability. She strives to keep her subjects from being associated with a particular decade or time. This results in choices such as not painting shoes on her subjects, as footwear often serves as a time stamp.[9] These figures usually rest in front of ambiguous backgrounds, floating inside monochromatic dark hues. These cryptic, but emotional backdrops remind commentators of old masters such as Velasquez and Degas.[10]

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 colour 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.[10]

Although each portrait only contains one person, the paintings typically are presented in groups that are arranged as if family portraits.[11] With her expressive representations of the human figure, Yiadom-Boakye examines the formal mechanisms of the medium of painting and reveals political and psychological dimensions in her works, which focus on imaginary characters who exist beyond our world in a different time and in an unknown location.[12] She paints figures who 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?"[13]

The Tate Museum provides an introduction to her work that is extensive,[14] to accompany a major exhibition of her work held from 2 December 2020 to 9 May 2021.[15]


For an artist, Yiadom-Boakye is unusual in describing herself as a writer as much as a painter—her short stories and prosy poems frequently appear in her catalogues.[9]

In talks about her work, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye notes that her writing is to her as her painting is, and explains that she "writes the things she doesn't paint and paints all the things she doesn't write". Her paintings are given poetic titles.[16]

Art market[edit]

At a 2019 auction at Phillips in London, Yiadom-Boakye’s Leave A Brick Under The Maple (2015), a life-size portrait of a standing man, sold for about $1 million.[17]

Subject for work of others[edit]

Painted in 2017, Kehinde Wiley’s Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite is displayed in the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT.[18]

A portrait of Yiadom-Boakye by photographer Sal Idriss is held in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.[19]


Yiadom-Boakye has staged numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries internationally. Her solo shows include Any Number of Preoccupations (2010), The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York;[20] Verses After Dusk (2015), Serpentine Galleries, London;[21] A Passion To A Principle (2016), Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland;[22] Under-Song For a Cipher (2017), New Museum, New York;[23][24][25] and Fly In Leave With The Night (2020), Tate Britain, London.[26]

She has also participated in a number of group shows and exhibitions, including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), Sharjah Biennial (2015),[27] 58th Venice Biennale (2019),[2][28] and Afro-Atlantic Histories (2021-2022).[29]


Yiadom-Boakye has been widely hailed for her work, winning accolades including The Arts Foundation fellowship for painting (2006) and the Carnegie Prize (2018).[10] She was also nominated for the Turner Prize (2013).[1][30]

Notable works in public collections[edit]


  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 26 March 2018.
  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. ^ Kazanjian, Dodie. "How British-Ghanaian Artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Portrays Black Lives in Her Paintings". Vogue. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  5. ^ McGreevy, Nora, Stunning Paintings of Fictitious Black Figures Subvert Traditional Portraiture, Smithsonian, December 3, 2020, with slide show and video link
  6. ^ "The Ruskin School of Art - Lynette Yiadom Boakye". Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Who are the influential Black Britons honoured in Powerlist 2019?". Melan Magazine. 27 October 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Who's on the list of the most influential black people?". BBC News. 25 October 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Zadie (12 June 2017). "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Imaginary Portraits". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE'S LOVELY, 'LOUDER' NEW PAINTINGS". AFROPUNK. 16 January 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  11. ^ "What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week". The New York Times. 8 January 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Haus der Kunst - Detail". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  13. ^ Bollen, Christopher (27 November 2012). "Galleries - Interview Magazine". Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  14. ^ An Introduction to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye From her imagined figures to her poetic titles, discover this figurative painter’s work, Tate Museum, accessed December 5, 2020
  15. ^ Exhibition Announcement, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Fly In League With The Night - The first major survey of one of the most important painters working today, Tate Museum, December 2020
  16. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye". Tate.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Scott Reyburn (June 27, 2019), Female Artists With African Backgrounds Are Winners at Phillips Auction in London New York Times
  18. ^ "Art in Context : Kehinde Wiley's "Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite"". Yale Center for British Art. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  19. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye - Portrait". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  20. ^ Lynette Yiadom-Boyake. Under-song for a cipher. New York: New Museum New York. 2017. ISBN 9780915557141. OCLC 992527373.
  21. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist (1 June 2015)", Serpentine UK.
  22. ^ "A Passion To A Principle • Kunsthalle Basel". Kunsthalle Basel. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  23. ^ Bell, Natalie (4 March 2017). "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song For A Cipher". New Museum. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song For A Cipher". Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  25. ^ Smith, Zadie. "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Imaginary Portraits". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  26. ^ Tate. "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night – Exhibition at Tate Britain". Tate. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  27. ^ "GIBCA • Lynette Yiadom-Boakye". (in Swedish). Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  28. ^ Hirsch, Faye (25 June 2015). "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  29. ^ "Afro-Atlantic Histories". NGA. National Gallery of Art. Archived from the original on 17 April 2022. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  30. ^ Extracts and Verses
  31. ^ "Nous étions". Studio Museum in Harlem. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  32. ^ "The Fondness". Nelson-Atkins. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  33. ^ "Tambourine". Nasher Museum of Art. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  34. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye".
  35. ^ "King for an Hour".
  36. ^ "Bracken or Moss". Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  37. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye born 1977". Tate.
  38. ^ "Siskin | Yiadom-Boakye, Lynette | V&A Search the Collections". V and A Collections. 25 August 2020.
  39. ^ "A Few For the Many". LACMA. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  40. ^ "Appreciation of the Inches". SFMOMA.
  41. ^ "Observer of Spring". Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  42. ^ "Lynette Yiadom-Boakye – Artists – eMuseum".
  43. ^ "Womanology 12". National Museum of African Art. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  44. ^ "A Culmination". Kunstmuseum Basel (in German). Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  45. ^ "8am Cadiz". ArtBMA. Baltimore Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  46. ^ "Medicine at Playtime". MOCA. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  47. ^ "The Much-Vaunted Air". ICA Boston. Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  48. ^ "No Need of Speech". CMOA. Carnegie Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  49. ^ "Repose 3". DMA. Dallas Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  50. ^ "Shelves for Dynamite". ArtsMIA. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2022.

Further reading[edit]

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