‘The Neon Man’ and ‘the Master of Glow’ are incredible titles for an incredible artist. The late Chris Bracey, who passed away in 2014, lives on in his colourful and innovative neon artworks. His dedicated collector following includes fellow artist Grayson Perry, as well as celebrities such as Jude Law, Kate Moss, Elton John and Lady Gaga.
We are honoured to display some of his works at Maddox Gallery.
Bracey’s father set up Electro Signs in Walthamstow, London, after the second world war. He created neon signs for circuses and fairgrounds, and Chris Bracey soon joined the family business.
While Electro Signs started producing signs for fairgrounds and amusement arcades, Bracey soon began making neon pieces for sex shops and clubs around Soho and the West End.
“I did hundreds of sex places over the next 30 years,” Bracey told the Guardian. “I used to make up the words, the colours, the names – Rude Encounters, Dreaming Lips, Pink Pussycat.”
While installing one of these sex shop signs in Soho, Bracey had a chance encounter with a film art director. He began making neon props for movie sets, and his work can be seen in blockbusters including Eyes Wide Shut, Batman, Blade Runner and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
While his profession was collecting speed, Bracey continued to creatively evolve his art, with a curiosity developed years earlier during his time at what is now the London College of Communication.
He was particularly inspired by an exhibition of the American artist Bruce Nauman at the Hayward Gallery in 1998. Works such as The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths introduced Bracey to the opportunities for using neon within the contemporary art world.
Bracy began to produce more complex and creative works in his workshop, using materials such as gold leaf and Murano glass.
Chris Bracey was not the first artist to use neon signage in his work – many in the Brit art movement have done so – but he was unique in physically creating these neon pieces himself. As well as making his own works, Bracey produced pieces with and for other artists who developed concepts for neon works.
Creed’s Work No. 232, a white neon sign which read “the whole world + the work = the whole world,” was fabricated by Bracey and displayed at Tate Britain. Vegas Supernova, a complex suite of neon pole-dancers displayed the windows of Selfridges, was made by Bracey in collaboration with the American photo-artist David LaChapelle.
Finally, Chris Bracey began to become a name in the art community in its own right. In 2012, he had exhibitions in LA and Miami galleries with contemporary art dealer Guy Hepner. The following year, he had his first London solo show.
After his passing, Bracey’s work only continues to rise in value and demand.
Bracey named his Walthamstow workshop God’s Own Junkyard, an apt name for a place where he created and displayed neon signs that portrayed faith and irreverence in equal measure. “What you’ve got here is Sodom and Gomorrah mixed with art,” explained Bracey in a 2012 television interview.
Today, his north London workshop is still functioning as a workshop and a museum of sorts. In the words of his wife Linda, Bracey “passed the neon baton” onto their sons, Marcus, Matthew and Max. Marcus worked with his father from the age of 12, and has since exhibited his own works. Marcus’s daughter Amber showed a number of pieces at his recent exhibition, continuing the tradition through four generations of neon sign artists.
An investment in a work by Chris Bracy is both and enjoyable and wise investment – we say it is ‘a bright idea!’
If you’d like to see or even buy Chris Bracey art, do call or visit us at Maddox Gallery. We welcome all visitors to our gallery, and our art investment experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Written by James Nicholls, Chairman, Maddox Gallery.