Neon is a tube filled with gas. It glows when connected to the power source. It was invented in 1855 by the German physicist Heinrich Geissler. By the end of the nineteenth century the invention was already in use in advertising. In 1910 the first neon lamp was built, and by 1923 a first neon sign was produced in The United States of America. Since then, the use of neon has greatly risen. It is one of the most attractive advertising media. It has been brightening up the urban space for over 100 years. Since the mid-50s of the twentieth century, neon lights have filled polish cities with numerous signboards and advertisements. Preparation of the neons’ design and execution was handed over to a state company Reklama (Advertising), which at its top moment employed more than 300 people. At the end of the last century neon has been put aside; the new neon signs were produced with a quality below high artistic standards. The artists helped in the last few years to restore the neons’ real glow. The old neons renewals that they performed drew attention to this unique lighting technique. When Paulina Ołowska renovated the famous Volleyball player Neon on the Constitution Square in Warsaw in 2006, it made other artists, Warsaw citizens and the municipality interested in this medium all over again. Since then numerous articles, studies, books and films about the history of neons were created. Exhibitions presenting various neons and actions of old neons renovations were organized. Finally in 2012 the Museum of Neon in Warsaw’s district Praga was opened.

Neon Inn presents artistic projects using the neon light. The art works chosen for the exhibition tell the neon’s story, treating it is as a material of artistic expression, used to create new narratives. Zuzanna Rogatty created an original typeface referring it to famous polish neon signs, inventing its contemporary and creative interpretation. For Peter Krzymowski neon is as a form of commemoration and celebration of the twentieth century cinema (especially the French New Wave, which is referenced in many of the artist’s works). Joanna Rajkowska produced a neon as a warning sign – 233ºC is the temperature of books spontaneous combustion. What’s more, the artist created her neon with an OCR font (Optical Character Recognition), recognizable by automated systems. Ola Munzar and Grzegorz Sobolewski, the authors of the Dolce Luce art project, use fragments of old neon signs as an inspiration to create new histories of the places, for which they were created. At the same time they incorporate the neon fragments into the installations made out of different materials, allowing the whole objects to operate independently, not necessarily only in the urban surroundings. Wojciech Dada refers in his work to a specific, authentic story. His neon lights up after a viewer passes by a motion sensor and simulates a lightning strike. Noen of Paulina Karwowska is a floor lamp that uses the classic neon as a spatial installation. Kamila Mróz treats her work as a piece of meticulous handicraft. Creation of each of her neons takes many hours of work; each piece takes up a form imitating a shape observed in nature. For the Neon Inn exhibition the artist presents a neon in a shape of a butterfly caterpillar. Work of Rene Wawrzkiewicz – referring to the Warsaw Mermaid present in the Warsaw crest – is the neon version of his logo made for the “Warsaw in flowers and greenery” competition and initiative organized by the Society of Warsaw Friends (Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Warszawy) and the City of Warsaw. Three of the windows in the Art Walk are occupied by an expanded installation prepared by Weronika Libiszowska and Agnieszka Nowak. The artistic duo called Neonlove is the author of many neon signs designed for both urban areas and interiors. Their artistic vision presented here is a tribute to the neon technique and to the many years of their cooperation.

Installations presented at the exhibition show different approaches to the neon. They guide us through various forms that a glass tube filled with colored gas can be shaped into. They are both attractive visual objects as well as an interesting form of artistic expression.

Marta Czyż

Ghelamco, Fundacja Sztuka w Mieście

Author of photos
Jakub Waszkiel (EgzotiQ Media)

The archival photos come from the National Digital Archive (NDA). The movie was provided by the Documentary and Feature Film Studios.

Ola Munzar i Grzegorz Sobolewski (Dolce Luce) – Rosa Luxemburg, 2016

This neon is both old and new. Old, as it was created in 1922 as an element of the facade of the newly built Rosa Luxemburg Electric Lamps Factory. And new at the same time, because it never became a part of the facade. This neon has never shone.

In the days, when the term dyslexia was not in common use, a spelling mistake in the word Rose closed a young career of its maker. Since then, the guy worked operating the big mercury tanks located under the floors of the factory halls. That is where he met his future wife Rosalie.

It’s not true. If you know the truth, or a better untruth; share it with Dolce Luce.

Ola Munzar i Grzegorz Sobolewski (Dolce Luce) – Foton, 2016

This neon is a symbolic commemoration of the Foton factory employee. The factory was situated in Wolska street. The employee had spent all of his adult life in a darkroom, avoiding sunlight. His unusual posture, nor the superhuman strength or his big fangs did not help him in winning over the sympathy of other people.

For many years he had worked in the department of medical radiographic films. Thus it amazed his colleagues, when after making him take an X-ray of himself, he wasn’t visible on the radiograph. After this incident, he supposedly moved to Romania.

It’s not true. If you know the truth, or a better untruth; share it with Dolce Luce.

Ola Munzar i Grzegorz Sobolewski (Dolce Luce) – Norblin Factory, 2016

This neon is a reflection of the dream that Mr Miroslaw – employee at Norblin Factory – had while working there as a polisher. He had spent several years polishing plates, staring for hours and hours at his own reflection, that was getting sharper together with the progress of his work. It caused him to seek for the symmetry axis of the Universe.

When he died (already as Mirrorslaw), he was buried in a mirror coffin. He rests at the Wolski Cemetery, but whether he is in peace – nobody knows.

It’s not true. If you know the truth, or a better untruth; share it with Dolce Luce.

Archive photo from the National Digital Archive (NDA) – Okrągły neon przy Domu Towarowym “Sawa” (Round neon of the SAWA Department Store) (author: Grażyna Rutowska)

Zuzanna Rogatty – Ochota district, 2016

Zuzanna Rogatty – Wola dictrict, 2016

RIALTO SCRIPT (Zuzanna Rogatty)

Rialto is inspired by old polish neon signs and theirs very imaginative and expressive lettering. Neon signs were designing by great Polish artists and architects during communistic times in Poland. Every lettering were very different and contained unique letters, decorative ligatures, swashes or compositions. The name came from old cinema located in Poznań, Poland, which has a huge red neon sign above entrance with its name. Rialto is a monoline display swashed script. Except lower and upper case it contains a set of block letters which you can find by turning on Small Caps. Uppercase, lowercase and small caps include latin accents. My aim was to design a font which will be evolving during writing. That’s why it contains contextual alternatives, basic and discretionary ligatures, initials and swashes. There are swashes for capitals, beginning and ending swashes in lowercase, and dash swashes in lowercase. A lot of variants which you can choose make every word individual just like neon signs were. Rialto Script was a MA diploma project at the University of Arts in Poznań and was published by The Designers Foundry (

archive photo from the National Digital Archive (NDA) – Sklepy w Al. Jerozolimskich – od prawej “Ambasador”, dalej “Natasza” (shops in the Jerozolimskie Alley – Ambasador, Natasza) (author: Grażyna Rutowska)

Joanna Rajkowska, 233°C, 2016

Archive photo from the National Digital Archive (NDA) – Plac Konstytucji – widoczny neon “Zegarki radzieckie – precyzja, estetyka, trwałość” (Consitution Square – neon of “Soviet Watches – precision, aesthetics, durability) (author: Grażyna Rutowska)

Piotr Krzymowski – CIN CINema, 2016

Weronika Libiszowska, Agnieszka Nowak (Neonlove) – Thick Neon Air, 2016

Weronika Libiszowska, Agnieszka Nowak (Neonlove) – Thick Neon Air, 2016

Weronika Libiszowska, Agnieszka Nowak (Neonlove) – Thick Neon Air, 2016

Weronika Libiszowska, Agnieszka Nowak (Neonlove) – Thick Neon Air, 2016

Kamila Mróz – Caterpillar, 2013

Paulina Karwowska – Noen, 2016

Wojciech Dada vel. Duda – Parallel, 2013

The inspiration for the creation of this work was… a bolt of lightning that struck Saint Peter’s Dome on February 13th, 2013. It caused a massive wave of comments all over the world. On the very same day Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would abdicate on February 28th. Dean of the Cardinals College Angelo Sodano said that this message had come like a “bolt from the blue.” This phenomenon revealed again a timeless tendency of people to make sense of accidental events. The fact of the constant development of knowledge and our understanding of the world does not reduce our need for overinterpretation of many events. This need is fueled by the media, which should, as it would seem, reveal a true knowledge about the world. Meanwhile, the images of the “reality” created by the media – paradoxically become sometimes the curtain for the real version of it.


Archive photo from the National Digital Archive (NDA) – neons made into an art collage (author: Zbyszko Siemaszko)

Rene Wawrzkiewicz – Warsaw in flowers and greenery, 2015

Logo design for the „Warsaw in flowers and greenery”, organized by the Society of Friends of Warsaw and the City of Warsaw.

Polish Movie Chronicles “Światła w obiektywie” (Lights in the Camera Lens) – provided by the Documentary and Feature Film Studios