Manchester Art Gallery is delighted to announce that a painting by Nahem Shoa has been gifted by the artist to the collection. Now based in London, Shoa studied in Manchester and this portrait was painted in his final year at Manchester School of Art and was exhibited in his degree show. 

The painting depicts Shoa’s childhood friend, the artist Desmond Haughton. Shoa painted the portrait from life at night after the college day ended. It took 2 months between the winter and spring of 1991 in Haughton’s studio in Hulme, Manchester and involved around 12 two-hour sittings. After finishing college, Shoa returned to London where he did one final sitting with Haughton to bring out more subtlety and presence from the portrait. 

Shoa has a long term commitment to representing people of colour. He strives to capture the unique skin colour that is individual to the sitter and not a racial stereotype. Shoa’s goal is to paint black skin as intensely as Lucien Freud painted white skin. 

This painting joins another smaller work by Shoa in the collection titled View from Hulme Flat c.1990. This was the view from Desmond Haughton’s flat, the location where the portrait sittings occurred. It shows the Crescents in Hulme shortly before they were demolished in 1993, a place where many of the city’s artists and creatives lived.  

During his successful career, Shoa has become well known for his Giant Heads, a series of portraits painted up to 15 times life size. He has generously donated many of his portraits of black or dual heritage people to British museums and galleries to rebalance the lack of positive imagery of black Britons in their collections. His work features in numerous collections including The Laing, Newcastle, The Box, Plymouth, Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries, The Herbert, Coventry, Southampton City Art Gallery, Bury Art Gallery, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull and the V&A, London.