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Always On - Neon Signs in Hong Kong

By Stasia Fong 31 March 2014
  Neon signs are an integral part of the iconic make up of our city. But as their numbers dwindle under accusations of tackiness and the Buildings Department's Validation Scheme for Unauthorised Signboards, they could soon cease to be a staple part of Hong Kong's cityscape. However one museum is on a quest to preserve their brilliance with the launch of an interactive online exhibition of neon Hong Kong. Although it isn’t due to physically open until 2017, M+, the new museum for visual culture in Hong Kong (part of the West Kowloon Cultural District) is already making waves online with its Mobile M+: NeonSigns.HK exhibition. The public has added hundreds of photographs to the interactive ‘Neon Map’, which shows the exact locations of the city’s most iconic signs. The government is gradually working to remove the estimated 120,000 Hong Kong signboards that hang “dangerously like chandeliers” above the streets and do not meet specific dimensions. M+ hopes to utilise its crowd-sourcing Neon Map to acquire some of the most iconic signs for future display. So far, they’ve arranged to adopt the famous cow belonging to Sammy’s Kitchen in Sai Ying Pun, and the Kai Kee Mah Jong School Rooster, both which have been up since the 1970s. For those looking for a deeper insight, the online exhibition also features side-by-side timelines of the worldwide and Chinese/Hong Kong neon histories, as well as critical essays by leading scholars, slideshows of lost neon signs, an interview with cinematographer Christopher Doyle on the influence of neon on his work, commissioned projects and more. Offline and throughout the city the exhibition will carry out various public programmes, such as series of photography and creative engagement workshops for children and seniors, night bus tours of neon signs (including tours for those with special needs), and more.

Submissions are being taken through Instagram, email and the website interface, and the photos can be shared and commented on via social media. Neonsigns.HK will be active for contribution from March 21st to June 30th. Want to take part? Go to, click on the neon map and upload your own.

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.