Saturday, May 14, 2011

polski neon

 ( yesterday i saw a short report about the neon museum in warsaw, whose sole mission is to conserve and protect for posterity the remaining neons of warsaw - and indeed poland. As these neon icons are removed from buildings in the rush to 'modernise' the city, the musuem's hope is they find their way to our permanent exhibition space for future generations to see. ) 

( the city of warsaw had its first neon sign in 1929. here, for the first time in europe a ‘pavement neon’ was installed. these early signs were made to order - free in design, shape and colour, and influenced other forms of advertising such as poster design and typography. however, as the city of warsaw was completely destroyed and subsequently rebuilt after the second world war, its new ‘socialist realism’ communist regime took a more ‘controlled’ interest in the medium of neon. neons returned to the streets of poland after 1956 when the ministry of interior trade created reklama - a state-run company for advertising services which monopolised exterior advertising throughout poland. polish neons were noted for their outstanding technical and artistic qualities as well as being sympathetically placed within the urban landscape. no wonder, they were designed and built by prominent architects, graphic designers and artists, and overseen by a chief graphic designer whose job it was to approve all new signs before their implementation. this complex and lengthy bureaucratic process meant it would often take 2-3 years to finalise any given project. despite this, every month many new neon signs appeared, and during its peak reklama maintained over 1000 neon signs. reklama is now a privately run business and is still providing neon signs, graphics and advertising services in the new polish republic. the neon signs from that era were certainly grand in size and bold in design. their playfulness and folly stood out in the otherwise dark and oppressed poland. most of the neons are now gone, too expensive to maintain, too fragile, rejected and forgotten, belonging to no one. all that remains are the ghostly weathered ‘shadows’ on the façades of the buildings they once adorned. so, the next time i'll be in warsaw i'll definately have to visit the museum, and probably this time i'll notice some of these neon signs on the streets.. ) 


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