An exhibition featuring some of Hong Kong's most iconic glowing signs is being held with the event's organizer aiming to preserve the city's fading neon legacy amid a shift to light-emitting diode technology.

The exhibition, "Vital Signs," at the Tai Kwun art center and running through Sept. 3, celebrates Hong Kong's distinct visual identity through its iconic neon heritage.

Over 20 neon signs are featured, many of which have been conserved and recommissioned by the nonprofit organization Tetra Neon Exchange and are on public display for the first time.

Tai Kwun will also hold a series of events, including workshops, talks, screenings and tours, to further teach visitors about the cultural heritage of Hong Kong's neon industry.

Photo taken on July 12, 2023, shows neon signs displayed at the exhibition "Vital Signs" at the Tai Kwun art center in Hong Kong. (Kyodo)

First introduced in the 1920s, neon signs have been a ubiquitous feature of Hong Kong's urban landscape since the 1950s, with thousands of signs lighting up the city's streets and skyline.

With the rise of LED technology in the 1990s, however, neon signs began to disappear from the city's streets as many businesses switched to the cheaper and more energy-efficient alternative.

The number of neon signs in the former British colony was estimated at some 120,000 around 2010 but has plunged to about 400 in 2022, according to Hong Kong media.

This decline in popularity has been further exacerbated in recent years as the city government has tightened regulations on unauthorized signage, issuing mass removal orders for the signs.

Last year, the decades-old Tai Tung bakery was forced to remove a sign that had represented the business for over half a century due to safety concerns. Another company, traditional bridal wear store Koon Nam Wah, was compelled to take down a sign that had been on display since the 1980s.

Both signs were picked up by Tetra Neon Exchange after removal and are currently on display at the exhibition.


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