Hong Kong’s neon lights are under preservation attempts

In Hong Kong, neon signs are an iconic representation of Hong Kong. The signs were first introduced in the 1920s. They grew in popularity in the latter half of the 20th century due to increased economic activity. To advertise their open hours, neon lights were used as a way for restaurants, nightclubs (including hotels), pawnshops, and mah-jong parlors to display their signs. Each sign is handmade by each individual, using both Western neon and local craft. Today, neon lights have become increasingly rare. Businesses transformed from being factories to becoming service providers in the new city. This led to a decline in their competitiveness. An old traditional industry. Neon is no exception. Pascal Greco, a Swiss artist born in Switzerland, has published “The Neon Book.” Hong Kong Neon ” explores the many neon signs that have lit up the streets for over a century.

Greco captured neon lights on a Polaroid camera after being inspired by Wong Kar–wai’s Hong Kong-set movies like “In the Mood for Love” or “Chungking Express”.

He visited Hong Kong every month for eight years and took photographs of 170 of its neon signs. Greco claims that 70% of the neon lights in his book no longer exist. Modernization has made neon signs inevitable in a densely populated places like Hong Kong. Skyscrapers are replacing the old buildings that were built on foot. A large number of old signs will eventually be replaced with safer and more efficient LED lights. Only a few neon light bulbs are allowed to go into storage. Most of these neon lights end up being thrown away. But, safety concerns aside, the crackdown may be more serious. Many neon signs displayed in Hong Kong are made of traditional Chinese characters. Greco suggests that simplified Chinese in mainland China may be responsible for Hong Kong’s loss of its unique heritage. It takes hard work to earn minimal financial rewards. Art is difficult to master and requires a lot of physical labor. Many neon lights artists in Hong Kong aren’t able to leave a lasting legacy. Cardin Chan is the spokesperson for Tetra Neon Exchange which is a nonprofit neon light conservation group. She estimates that at the peak of neon signs in Hong Kong, there were more than 400. But now there are only ten. These neon light masters do not want their successors to be in the same position they were once in. Cardin adds, “For the longest period, these people worked so tirelessly for Hong Kong (city’s), landscape.” “I believe they should be seen. They are unsung heroes. Karen Chan founded CeeKayEllo which is a local art studio and HTMLKCRAFTS which is a non-profit arts organization that promotes local crafts and artists. She is a neon sign designer and practitioner who has been studying the techniques since 2019. Because the neon light industry in Hong Kong is largely male-dominated, she is the only female practitioner and designer of neon lights in the city. She has also taken lessons from several neon light artists worldwide, including those in France, Taiwan, and the United States. However, the 32-year-old admits that mastering this craft is difficult. She admitted that her weakness was the physical aspect. The neon signs are very precise and require careful attention. It takes practice and muscle memory. Although neon lights are now tangibly gone, their memory lives on among Hong Kong residents.

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