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In the frame | Charming Baker

Charming Baker is a British artist of international commercial acclaim, whose profile has risen consistently over the last couple of decades. American collector, gallerist and entrepreneur Eric Perlman reports on what makes him so special

Half-Pint by Charming Baker

Since his breakout show at London’s Truman Brewery in 2007, Charming Baker has exhibited at some of the world’s most established venues and leading contemporary spaces.

Recent UK shows have taken place at Sotheby’s S2, Unit London and The Vinyl Factory, and in 2012 Charming collaborated with designer Sir Paul Smith to create a sculpture for the V&A’s Britain Creates.

The following year, his sell-out exhibition at Milk Studios in Los Angeles – the artist’s largest to date – cemented Charming’s status as a UK-centric artist with a global audience. And it was here that I first met him.

He trained as a graphic designer at London’s Central Saint Martins – and this experience lends a clarity and an accessibility to his art. It has almost universal appeal, and has attracted collectors in Damien Hirst, British collector Frank Cohen and New York dealer Alberto Mugrabi.

His auction highlights include a collection of sculptures sold for £50,000 at Phillips in 2019, and original canvas pieces variously sold between £25,000-£40,000 at Christie’s and Bonhams.

On the surface, the animal figures and decorative backgrounds that recur throughout his work appear light and playful. But there’s an edge to them too, one that often leans towards the dark and uncanny.

Study for a Portrait of an Unknown Woman, 2016, by Charming Baker
Portrait of Emmanuel (or Man Standing Behind his Self-Belief), 2019, by Charming Baker

This juxtaposition is present across much of Charming’s work. As the art critic Edward Lucie-Smith described, his art conjures “a kind of romantic melancholy that is very British. And sometimes the melancholy turns out to have sharp claws.”

In his most iconic work, Half Pint – first painted in 2006 – Charming depicts his six-year-old son wearing a panda mask.

The use of animals and obscured human faces is a common motif in Charming’s work; it enriches the metaphorical possibility that is central to his art.

Half Pint is such a simple image that manages to be simultaneously cute yet menacing, self-contained but distilled with different layers of meaning.

It speaks of childhood innocence, of the dualities of the human nature, of concerns around extinction, and as latterly revealed by the artist, even of the rise of China as a global superpower at that time.

The timeless appeal of Half Pint has seen it perform continually well over the last 7 years, with print versions of the image reliably selling for around £2,500 at auction (Christie’s 2019).

As an artist who likes to push in new directions while maintaining artistic credibility and integrity, Charming was a natural choice of collaborator for the launch of my new art-fashion brand, Script.

Script is working to produce a new limited-edition genre of coveted, collectible artwork in the form of apparel, and the first release is a t-shirt featuring a new version of the Half Pint image by Charming.

The brand has been born from a desire to forge new relationships between artists and collectors and create a form of art that is accessible yet special – aligning with Charming’s own ethos.

In doing so, we hope to offer a novel way to experience, admire and even own Charming’s work, and contribute to the enduring legacy of Half Pint.

Launching 6 April, Script’s Half Pint T-shirt by Charming Baker is available as a limited run of 1,000 unisex shirts – 500 black, 500 white – available from £213 / $295. The collectible editions feature top-quality Pima cotton construction with Peruvian woven fabric. All are hand screen printed and embellished in the USA, with each shirt individually numbered and accompanied by a corresponding numbered COA, hand-signed by the artist. script.art

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