M+, Hong Kong’s museum for visual culture, presents the NEONSIGNS.HK exhibition and celebrates a key feature of the city’s look by exploring, mapping and documenting its neon signs with the contribution of HKG inhabitants. Indeed, NEONSIGNS.HK invited the public to post images and stories of their favourite neon signs to its Neon Map, and to rediscover these compelling features of the city’s streetscapes from a deeper perspective. www.neonsigns.hk
The NEONSIGNS.HK website has been actively updated with new contents: as videos, interviews, pictures, essays and an interactive map. M+ has begun acquiring, for its permanent collection, notable Hong Kong neon signs that are otherwise at risk of being lost.
A neon sign starts and ends with a line—or more specifically, a gas-filled tube of glass, heated and bent by a skilled craftsman, and set aglow by an electrical charge. Once illuminated, the line transforms: It mimics and abstracts, implores and distracts. Its symbols, signs and texts articulate a live-wired language of the modern city.
“With a mandate spanning visual art, design and architecture, and moving image, M+ has begun acquiring examples of otherwise-threatened neon signs from Hong Kong’s streetscapes. The intention draws less from sentimentality… than a recognition that neon signs present a compelling case study for a multidisciplinary museum, rooted in the neon city of Hong Kong, whose overarching theme is visual culture”. Comment Aric Chen, one of the curators of the project.
“While neon signs offered a seductive visual vocabulary for the 20th century, in the 21st, they and the skills that produced them are being supplanted by LED and other, newer technologies. It might seem ironic that this project, dedicated to neon signs, resides on one of the mediums that’s replacing them: a digital screen. However, as a craft born of industry, there has always been something inherently anachronistic about neon, and perhaps it’s fitting that it’s as an anachronism that neon signs might live on”.
M+ is the new museum for visual culture in Hong Kong, as part of the West Kowloon Cultural District, encompassing 20th and 21st century art, design and architecture, and the moving image from Hong Kong, China, Asia and beyond. www.westkowloon.hk/mplus – www.westkowloon.hk.
Photos: courtesy of – www.neonsigns.hk