Neon by Chris Bracey
Neon by Chris Bracey
London-born artist Chris Bracey worked with neon and lights for thirty years. His father, a neon sign-maker for fairgrounds, arcades, and the like, taught Bracey the trade at an early age. Bracey salvaged lights from fairgrounds, film props, and vintage signs to re-purpose them into Contemporary Pop sculptures that illuminate and conjure a sense of wonder, nostalgia and glamor. Having made his mark in the Soho district in London, Bracey’s works have also been exhibited in the UK and the US. His works are in public collections, and have been featured prominently in films such as Batman, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and the Dylan Thomas biopic.
He also made pieces for artists who were too busy being conceptual to make them themselves: Creed’s Work No 232 (2000), a white neon sign at Tate Britain that read “the whole world + the work = the whole world”, was fabricated by Bracey, as were others of Creed’s artworks. Such are the vagaries of the art market that Creed’s two-word sign, Don’t Worry, sold at auction in 2012 for £40,000, while Bracey was paid just £15,000 for Vegas Supernova, a complex suite of neon pole-dancers he had made for the windows of Selfridges. Even this price, unusually high for his work, may have reflected the fact that it had been done in collaboration with the American photo-artist David LaChapelle.
If this disparity bothered Bracey, he did not let it show. He remained friendly with many of the artists he worked for and with: his erstwhile Walthamstow neighbour, Grayson Perry, was a frequent visitor to the Junkyard. With its mix of skill and Hollywood glamour, Bracey’s work developed a celebrity following: Jude Law, Kate Moss, Elton John and Lady Gaga were all collectors.
The Neon Man had also become something of a celebrity. To his amusement, some of the sex signs he had made for Raymond were recently bought by a museum in Berlin. In 2012, he was given shows at the Los Angeles and Miami galleries of the contemporary art dealer Guy Hepner, and last year he had his first London solo show, I’ve Looked Up to Heaven and Been Down to Hell. “It’s how my life’s been, I suppose,” Bracey said of the title.