THE ONLY SUCH MUSEUM IN POLAND - THE NEON MUSEUM
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Probably only a few Poles, mainly Varsovians, remember the way Warsaw looked in the early 1960s, and in particular the appearance of the capital at night. Together with its neon lights, which comprised a sui generis “showcase”, Warsaw appeared to be a substitute for a European metropolis. Neon signs started appearing in assorted post-war Polish towns at the onset of People’s Poland. Initially, they encountered the resistance of the authorities, since they expressed a longing for the Western world and its lifestyle. Neon lights also fulfilled numerous functions: they additionally illuminated insufficiently lit streets, enhanced the, as a rule, grey facades of new housing and added allure and an aura of mystery to old town houses, survivors of wartime conflagrations. For people returning in the evening from work, film shows, theatres or other “events”, neon lights acted as special signposts indicating the location of rather scarce shops, service outlets, or restaurants, cafes and bars, which closed early. At the turn of the 1960s the town authorities consented to an upsurge of neon lights. Some proved to be genuine works of art, whose authors included excellent and at times outstanding graphic artists-designers. Recent years have shown a lack of respect on the part of the Warsaw authorities for the modern history of the capital, discernible in irresponsible and outright harmful decisions about the elimination of historical and still existing neon lights. The capital has become the scene of great transformations: leaseholders of trade and service venues are changing, as are the latter’s functions, while particular institutions are moved or outright closed. The consequences of those processes include irreversible losses of neon signs. It is high time to save remnants of the old neon lights of Warsaw. More the reason to note with great satisfaction that the persistent efforts of Ilona Karwińska, a Polish art photographer residing permanently in London, supported by her English husband, David Hill, have resulted in the opening of the Neon Museum after years of numerous initiatives. It 2005 the Museum was still without a permanent gallery, but today it is situated in 25 Mińska Street in the district of Praga. The Neon Museum is a private enterprise, conducted thanks to the modest help of Fundacja Neon. It does not enjoy the support of public funds, functions thanks to volunteers, and is open from Thursday to Saturday (noon - 17 pm) and on Sunday (noon- 16 pm).
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