The neon sign. A symbol of capitalism, consumerism, seediness, Soho and the sex trade. In the middle of Soho, next to a sex shop with multiple neon signs of its own, is Lights of Soho’s farewell exhibition to the king of neon: Chris Bracey. Consisting of signs taken from his Walthamstow gallery God’s Own Junkyard, the exhibition is right next to a sex shop with its own collection, albeit a less sophisticated one, of neon signs. It feels like the perfect place for this show, as these sex shops were where Bracey’s career began.
In the late 70’s, he catered to West End’s burgeoning sex industry, helping shape the Soho we know and love today with his provocative and alluring signage. “I did 99 percent of every sex establishment in Soho for 20 years,” he told the BBC last year. “For me, it was an artistic endeavour.” He influenced and helped other more famous artists who wanted to dabble in neon. Grayson Perry was a frequent visitor to God’s Own Junkyard, Tracy Emin had her own neon series, and Martin Creed even used Bracey to illuminate some of his works. The exhibition alludes to the art world connotations with prints of different pieces by Emin and Gilbert & George. By doing this Lights of Soho also raises the question/ draws to attention that the neon king was viewed by critics very much as a craftsman- less so as an artist. Unlike Emin and Creed who enlisted others to fabricate their concepts, Bracey made each neon sign himself.
Definitely worth a visit whilst you are doing your Christmas shopping nearby. When I asked my friends what they thought of the show they both came to the same conclusion: ‘neon signs are cool- I wish my flat looked like this’. Worth a visit purely for interior inspiration, and the tacky light up Jesus Christmas card is the best thing I have seen all December.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Miley http://instagram.com/jessmiley94/
Isabella Bornholt; BogeArt