STAGING BEAUTY
Sarah Baker at BES

by Kathy Battista, 2011


B.E.S. and Tauromakia present the fifth iteration of 28 rue Bonaparte. Continuing on the theme of staging beauty, we present the work of Sarah Baker, an American artist who lives and works in London. Baker is known for her exploration of pop and celebrity culture and has said that the palimpsest of all her work is the Louis Vuitton ‘LV’ monogram handbag. Baker plays with her identity, using her signature as a logo that is repeated in various forms. Adorning her name on everything from glamour nails and fashion accessories to a Vauxhall car, she subverts and pays homage to all the iconic initials in luxury and fashion: Vuitton’s groundbreaking LVs, Gucci’s Gs, Fendi’s Fs, and Chanel’s Cs.


Baker’s obsession with celebrity identities, from the 1980s Jackie Collins ‘bitch’ to Lil Kim’s own diva status, informs and propels her work. Baker’s new series references the consumption associated with old-fashioned Hollywood glamour: Nat Sherman black cigarettes and gold leaf obliquely reference the trappings of celebrity and high society. Rather than revealing her entire identity, as Baker has done in previous work, here she uses body parts—from a hand or eye to a breast or collarbone—to perform acts, including holding a cigarette or drinking a martini. Baker then takes the original photographic prints and makes interventions on them, from actually spilling martini mix or gold leaf to placing objects such as a cocktail strainer on top and re-photographing the compositions. The resulting images oscillate between trompe l’oeil and documents of performing fabulousness. In addition to these analog interventions, digital renderings of Baker’s signature—from the shadows on the chest plate to the iris of the eye—are spread throughout the images. At once Baker conflates old-fashioned glamour with beauty found at the tap of a mouse pad.