Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium: solo show by Lucy Sparrow (7th- 17th October 2015) Over 18 only
Back in September, during my first visit to Tom’s Etching studio, the buzz that night was about artist Lucy Sparrow who was crafting an entire sex shop out of felt! Well not the bricks and mortar, obviously, but all the contents.
I first heard of Lucy Sparrow last summer (Aug 2014) when she had opened first shop which was a local grocers also known in the UK as a corner shop. The contents of that shop were also felt replicas of any real item which might be sold in a corner shop. Lucy Sparrow’s felt Cornershop opens on Wellington Row was beautifully documented by Inspiring City blog. And it was in Bethnal Green. Her sex shop, Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium would be open in the heart of what was London’s most famous red light district, Soho.
This was my first sight of Lucy’s shop. Can you spot which one is real and which one isn’t ?
Artist Lucy Sparrow and how she came up with the idea
Lucy Sparrow worked for 5 years as a lap dancer to support her artistic ambitions. And it was during these years, whilst waiting for punters to arrive, that Lucy enjoyed sewing to pass the time. In those days it was hair extensions and costumes.
After the sell-out success of Cornershop which also attracted Arts Council funding, she looked for another idea for a similiar art installation. This time her inspiration came from Parliament’s amendement to the 2003 Communications Act in December 2014 which censored what can be depicted in pornographic movies made in the UK. The Independent covered the amended act here. Lucy’s conclusion was that it censored female pleasure in favour of Victorian prudery and her show is a challenge to that prudery. Also she wanted to make a comment on the clean up of Soho as the sex shops and clubs are being closed down and the fancy coffee shops and wine bars are taking over. Madame Roxy’s had to happen in Soho and she took over a men’s barbershop for only a week to do that.
The preparation for her show took around five months. Lucy, with the help of 3 workers created all the felt items found in Madame Roxy’s Emporium. And they were all for sale.
Madame Roxy’s Emporium – over 18s only
When I entered the shop, the first items I noticed were all related the diseases you might catch from sexual activity.
And on the shelf below are these items. The price is for the felt replica work of art.
The magazine racks blew my mind because each cover looked unique. That takes a lot of time and imagination to design so many variations.
I loved the attention to detail such as this notice and how it is deliberately misspelt library.
When I visited the show Lucy was busy making extra felt condoms which at £2 each were her best selling item, she told me. In comparison the magazine covers were over £200. And she also said that she had researched her show by visiting the red light district in Amsterdam.
Down a narrow stair case – walls covered in felt posters and pictures – was a cinema with red velvet seats and porno movie all made from felt.
And in case that got you all excited, there was a felt dispenser to dispense felt tissues.
I loved the old art deco glass ceiling of the shop. There by chance and beautiful.
In amongst all the felt magazines was this real one with Lucy Sparrow on the cover.
Felt is a clever choice of material because I associate it with toys and making pictures with fuzzy felt. It made the experience of being in a sex shop a touch surreal. And looking in to a real sex shop which I noticed afterwards, it was far more colourful. The shop below looks rather bare and tawdry in comparison.
And on the bus, on the way home, this phone box caught my eye. And for those who don’t remember London’s past, King’s Cross was another red light district.
Six weeks later, I was passing Green’s Court again and I went to see what was in place of Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium. The barbershop was back in business and respectability and gentility were restored. 😉