Colourful illuminated advertisements serve not only informative role, but also shape a street’s character. After gaining popularity in Paris, Berlin and the United States, the time soon came for them to start appearing in Polish cities.
The first neon in Warszawa appeared in 1926 on the roof of Marconie’s Villa that is located at the junction of ul. Marszałkowska and Al. Jerozolimskie. As it was and advertisement for “Haberbusch and Schiele” brewery, it depicted a beer bottle with the label “Porter”. In case of Kraków, neon lighting presumably made its debut in 1935. It was located at ul. Wielopole, where it drew the attention of passers-by to “Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny”, a periodical published in Kraków between 1910-1939. Citizens of Kraków also remember an illuminated advertisement at Polonia hotel’s roof that read: “Use the services of the Soviet railways”. It was dismantled in 1990.
In the second half of the 50s, the so-called neonization plan, which was based on the development of illuminated advertisements for all streets, started to become a topic. People responsible for the preparation of the projects included fine artists, architects and painters, who often boldly experimented with the form. Neon had to be consistent with the urban space, while its concepts were created together with building projects.
The 60s and 70s are known as “the golden age of neon”. This form of advertisement was applied by both private companies and cultural institutions. And so, it was possible to admire the stylish lettering on the roof of the Ludowy Theater in Kraków, characteristic “Dancing” neon at ul. Nowy Świat in Warszawa or Gąska Balbinka, known from TV “Dobranocka” (“Bedtime show”), at ul. Więckowskiego in Łódź.
Partings and reunions
One of the best-known neon, called “Good evening in Wrocław” (installed in 1962), who complemented its elegant typography with a figure of a gentleman with a bowler hat and a flower in his hand. The neon was shut down in the 90s. However, thanks to the citizens’ initiative, it shone once again on the roof of a block of flats at ul. Piłsudskiego and welcomed travellers leaving Wrocław train station. On the other hand, the citizens of Warszawa can once again admire the slick ball throw depicted in “Volleyball” neon.
Designed by Jan Mucharski in 1960, the neon was renovated and returned to its glamour at Plac Konstytucji in Warszawa in 2016. Paulina Ołowska was also involved in the process of renewing the “Markiza” neon that advertised a confectionery in Kraków. If you would like to see the famous “Markiza” in colour, you should go to Nowa Huta Central Square at dusk.
After flourishing decades, neon started facing hard times. Due to energy crisis, many of them stopped glowing and, in result, fell into oblivion or were removed. With the advent of the new political system, neon began to be replaced by more modern forms of advertising. Today, it is safe to say that neon is coming back in fashion, as it is used by popular clubs, cafes and restaurants. This trend can be seen if you go to ul. Dolnych Młynów 10 in Kraków – neon signboards are used by several local premises and cafes.
Furthermore, the coffee bar club “Warszawa Powiśle” in the capital city has the whole community astir. Both the building itself and the illuminated inscription have been restored and every weekend a group of regular visitors gathers under the former PKP ticket window to enjoy it. You should definitely not miss the first Polish Neon Museum in Kamionek in Warszawa, located in Soho Factory. Ilona Karwińska and David S. Hill, museum managers, have been gathering old neon signs since 2010 and saving them from oblivion, as well as documenting the art of their creators.
For the house and the office
The light art is also an inspiration for manufactories and artistic studios. The offer of such brands as Loftlight, Light My Fire, Neonlove or Twórczywo includes handmade lamps, ledon lamps or decorative bulbs. They can not only serve as an original decoration, but also create the right atmosphere and highlight the unique style of a room. And while it is obvious that neon looks best in the urban space, you can successfully transfer its magic to interiors.