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Rescued From Oblivion. Greatest Museum Of Neon Advertising Signs Opened In Poland

Rescued from oblivion. Greatest museum of neon advertising signs opened in Poland

Communist Poland was full of paradoxes. At a time when capitalism did not exist in Poland , one of its distinctive features – advertising in the form of neon sign – was thriving.

How was it possible under commies?

After Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev became the First Secretary. Countries behind the Iron Curtain had a sigh of relief as they started to see a slight ease of the totalitarian regime. As communists wanted to create communism with a human face, they gave people a little more freedom. To artists, too. Inspired by images from the West, the artists initiated something which came to be known as neonisation.

Advertising kitsch or art?

When you think about neon, you probably see a poor quality advertising sign with little or no artistic value. However, neon in communist Poland was designed and made by the most famous and talented designers and architects of that time, for example, Witold Janowski, Janusz Rapnicki and Jan Mucharski. No wonder, their neon signs are admired so much even now.

For what reason?

There seem to be two ideas behind the neonisation. The first one was to bring more life to the gloomy reality of the 1950s and 1960s. As Professor David Crowley of London’s Royal Academy of Art said “these neon fluid threads of light brought a kind of nocturnal magic to the city.” With time, the glowing signs towering over the streets of Warsaw, Gdańsk or Wrocław became city landmarks deeply rooted in people’s conscience. The second seems to follow from the communists’ desire to catch up with the West and prove that their idea to rule Poland was as good as the western one, or even better.

For the nostalgic ones.

To save the luminous advertising heritage of the Communist era for the next generation of Poles a photographer Ilona Karwinska and a graphic designer David Hill opened the Neon Museum in Warsaw. It is a place where you can admire all the amazing artifacts. So, if you have a bit of a nostalgic feeling for the past tinged with neon lightening, visit the museum.

Bartlomiej Kowalczyk

Picklemedia Consultancy Ltd

@bartekkowalczyk, b.kowalczyk@picklemedia.com

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