Colin Gleadell tells the backstory behind Charming Baker’s rise to prominence where Damien Hirst and Alberto Mugrabi collect his work. It all came on quite suddenly:
Charming (real name Alan) Baker left school at 15 to dig up roads before enrolling at Central St Martin’s School of Art to study graphic design and illustration in the 1980s. In the years that followed, he survived, bringing up a family of five children, by teaching part-time and doing odd jobs for clients such as the BBC and the Daily Telegraph.
In 2006, he was paid a visit by Tim Fennell, a graffiti-art enthusiast, who arranged an exhibition of Baker’s work at the Truman Brewery in London’s East End. Baker does not describe himself as a graffiti or urban artist, though he does share the anti-establishment attitudes of the urban art movement. “It’s an attitude I absolutely relate to,” he says. “Like when punk fired up a dull and complacent music industry. It’s like blasting a shot of warm air up the pin-stripe trousers of a previously stuffy art scene.”
With paintings selling for £3,000 or £4,000, the Brewery show was a success. However, Baker’s career took a more dramatic turn when he went to Los Angeles in 2008 to take part in a debate on urban art. Also there was Roger Klein, the creative director for one of the pop music business’s most successful managers, Pat Magnarella.
Having checked Baker out on the internet, Magnarella, who manages platinum-disc rock bands Green Day and Goo Goo Dolls, went to a local gallery that was showing his paintings, bought two, and then flew to London with a management deal.