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The art of sex shops

The sex shops of Soho will be taking centre stage in a new exhibition of original paintings by Great Yarmouth-based artist Jane Hall next week. The exhibition, which takes place at the Reading Room gallery on Soho’s Frith Street, looks at the changing face of Soho by focusing on its fast-disappearing sex shops and strip joints, many of which – rather annoyingly for Jane – are turning into clothes stores or coffee shops.

Jane explained: “I’ve always been interested in the colourful signage and neon lights of the Soho sex shops, so it’s a real shame that so many have gone out of business or been forced to close down. I’ve noticed lots of changes in the past few years, with several shops disappearing while I was halfway through painting them. I was particularly disappointed when Janus was closed, as I couldn’t finish the painting from the photographs I had.”

Jane’s fascination with sex shops stems, in part, from her other role as head of distribution for adult magazine publisher, XD Publications. She said: “My partner, top Tgirl Suzy James, has been writing for adult mags for years and then when she started publishing her own titles, I was put in charge of dealing with distributors and sex shops. It meant that pretty much for the first time in my life I started going inside sex shops and learning what goes on beyond the rainbow-striped curtains and boarded up windows. I remember feeling quite nervous the first few times I did it. There is always something a little bit nerve-wracking about walking into a building with a boarded up shop front, and that sense of trepidation is always one of the things I try to capture in my work.”

Jane’s exhibition, which runs from June 6th to July 20th, will feature over 20 paintings of Soho’s adult shops. “I’m currently putting the finishing touches to a painting of Harmony on Walker’s Court, but I’ve also painted Super Mags, Soho Original Books, Soho DVDs and some of the more colourful unlicensed premises, as well as some strip joints and Soho walk ups,” she said. “It’ll be really great to show these works in the heart of Soho, and it’ll be even better if some of the sex shop staff and owners can make it to the opening night party. Most of them will just know me as the girl who pops in or rings up to make sure our magazines are sitting on the shelves, so it’ll be nice for them to see what my proper job is all about.”

For more information about Jane’s work visit www.jane-hall.co.uk