The sole Creators and Directors of the Neon Muzeum are David Hill and Ilona Karwinska. They built the foundations of the museum back in 2005 and it’s now an absolute must-see for those visiting Warsaw. Ilona talks to us about her neon fuelled passion and what its like to be part of the buzzing creative scence in Warsaw.
The Neon Museum is a fascinating experience and the biggest collection of Neon in Europe. How did it all start?
It was in December 2005, whilst travelling through Warsaw with my partner David Hill, that we first discovered these beautiful but decaying relics of Poland’s state-sponsored cold war-era neonisation program – something that had been largely forgotten or ignored in the rush to re-join the west. From this discovery, we both worked tirelessly for more than a decade to document, save and conserve these culturally significant electro-graphic artefacts and establish a museum and archive that is now the largest singular collection of neon signs in Europe.
Tell us about some of the most iconic pieces you have in the collection.
We have many historically important neon artefacts in our collection. Without a doubt the most significant is the original Orbis Globe from Al. Jerozolimskie –
it was the very first post-war neon sign built and installed around 1951. You can see a beautiful replica in its place now. Other pieces in our collection are important because of their age and connection to the some of the best-known designers of the age. The original Cepelia neon (1959) from Plac Konstytucji was designed by the great graphic artist Maksymilian Krzyżanowski. The extraordinary neon Karo (from Gródek) was designed by the brilliant Zbigniew Marjanowski in 1969. Almost every neon sign in our collection is now considered iconic when one considers their rarity and connection the Polish Poster School artists who created them.
Are there any Neon pieces you would love in your collection? Why?
We are constantly exploring the country looking for endangered neon signs – some of which are truly stunning, but we have our hands full restoring and researching the 200+ neons already in our collection.
Do you see a revival in Neon advertising happening?
Yes, in Warsaw we have seen a renewed love and return of neon as an advertising medium. A new generation of designers are referencing the electro-graphic designs of the past when creating new work for galleries, restaurants and shops today. We are delighted with this revival and in many cases we are approached directly to create these new neons for the city’s businesses – all of whom seem to appreciate the provenance of having us involved.
You are based in Soho Warsaw, tell us more about this new area of the city.
Soho is the vibrant and exciting creative centre of today’s modern Warsaw. The regeneration of post-industrial buildings and warehouses in to shops, cafes, studios and restaurants (such as the fabulous Warszawa Wschodnia by Mateusz Gessler) has brought in some of the city’s most talented artisans and entrepreuners. Not to mention it being a fantastic place to live – an entire neighbourhood of affordable designer and loft apartments are being constructed in the complex. We enjoy every minute of our day in Soho!
Neon Muzeum, ul. Mińska 25, Praga District, Soho Factory,Warsaw
Regular tickets: 10zl
Concession tickets: 8zl
- Tram 22 from Centrum, tram 26 from the Old Town (alight at Bliska stop)
- Buses from the centre to Wiatraczna (alight at Bliska stop)
- Metro Line 2 from Centrum (alight at Warsaw Stadion)
- We have bike racks outside the museum too!