Literature and language play a significant role in inspiring Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s arresting, enigmatic portraits of fictitious characters. She’s also an avid writer of short stories and sees her writing as running parallel with her painting. And at last night’s special Artist’s Table dinner held in her honour to raise funds for the Contemporary Art Society (CAS), this multi-talented artist treated the 90-strong gathering to a rare and special outing of her literary side with readings from Shakespeare, Baudelaire and James Baldwin, as well as from her own work.
Yiadom-Boakye had an actor read aloud her own rumbustious short story Problems with the Moon, but played the role of Polonius herself in an extract from Hamlet—certainly the first time Ophelia’s father has been played by a woman wearing a Duro Olowu dress and golden cowboy boots. She also delivered a spirited rendition of Baudelaire’s Be Drunk (1919), which set the tone for the evening with its opening clarion call “you have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way.”
The evening was hosted by the CAS trustee Emma Goltz and took place in the Kennington space of Boakye’s gallerist Tommaso Corvi-Mora. Baudelaire’s poem became all the more appropriate since the evening was fuelled by lashings of natural wines from Corvi-Mora’s new wine shop one A wines, which is situated in a nook just behind the gallery and was open for business during the evening. Among the guests were the collector Valeria Napoleone and her twin sister Stefania Pramma, the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac director Julia Peyton-Jones, and the designer Duro Olowu who, as well as dressing the headline artist, was also responsible for the attire of her fellow guest and Tate director Maria Balshaw. Being a Monday night, the gathering did not follow Mr Baudelaire to the letter but instead remained clear headed enough to snap up the entire run of Yiadom-Boakye’s limited edition etching Paridae, which she had made especially for the evening. Overall, the 90 guests raised £90,000 for the excellent work of the CAS, who last year distributed artworks worth £1.4m to its member museums throughout the country.