Neon will never die in Gods [sic.] Own Junkyard. More wonderland than warehouse, gigantic disco balls hang between numerous clever and downright saucy signs that offer a glimpse into a collection that began over 50 years ago with a man named Dick Bracey.
The lights first fired up in 1958 behind the doors of Electro Signs, a business specializing in fairground and circus lettering. It was not long until Dick’s son, the late Chris Bracey, joined his father’s fluorescent line of work – clearly, neon flows through Bracey blood.
In the early 70s, [Chris] Bracey was after something more – carnivals were not the neon pinnacle. So he got his foot in the door of a very different, but no less riské scene – the heart of Soho. His clientele, including the infamous Kray brothers, were now as red lit as the signs themselves but it was only a matter of time before Bracey would seek to push the envelope further.
In 1998, American light artist, Bruce Nauman, was exhibiting at the Hayward Gallery on London’s Southbank. Neon featured heavily and Bracey realized the potential of neon to illuminate more than just sex in Soho. He began to salvage and restore film signs and experiment with materials such as gold leaf and radioactive krypton gas. The result was “Sodom and Gomorrah mixed with art” and the world could not get enough.
The works are available for hire and purchase although Bracey was renowned for once turning down a £30,000 offer for his “God Save the Queen” – each piece of artwork is a new love that he would have rather kept. While the price tag may be more than a little steep for the average punter, you can offer up your own things for a customized neon resurrection. Anything goes – from smashed car doors to wheelbarrows. Delightfully, neon has no limit.
Sadly, Chris Bracey passed away due to prostate cancer in 2014. His glowing legacy, however, carried forward by his wife, Linda, and two of his three sons, Matthew and Marcus, shines on.
This year is the third time that Gods Own Junkyard has returned to where it all began – the Soho Streets, the very soul of neon. The kick ass collection, in collaboration with art gallery, Lights of Soho, is called ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.’ Adding depth to the usual commercial festive displays, the exhibition pieces are a vivid finger to the dystopia of 2016.
Need to know
Exhibition: ‘Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life’: Lights of Soho, 35 Brewer Street, London
- Until January 23rd, 2017
- Opening Hours: 10am-6pm for public; after 6pm members’ only
Gods Own Junkyard: Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, London E17 9HQ
- Opening Hours: Friday & Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-6pm
- Grab a bite to eat at The Rolling Scones Café found within the enclave
All photos are courtesy of Gods Own Junkyard