“We’re being led by the nose into a hideous jungle of signs. They’re outsized, outlandish, and outrageous. They’re desecrating our buildings, cluttering our streets, and — this is the final indignity — blocking our view of some of the greatest scenery in the world.” ‐ Tom Ardies, “Let’s Wake Up from Our Neon Nightmare,” Vancouver Sun, 1966

Neon signage

Explore Vancouver’s gritty, urban past at the Museum of Vancouver’s upcoming exhibition, Neon Vancouver/Ugly Vancouver. Opening on October 13, 2011, Neon Vancouver/Ugly Vancouver presents a fascinating look at the rapid growth of neon signs in Vancouver throughout the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, and their unfortunate later demise.

Smilin' Buddha. Photo credit: Rebecca Blissett
[Smilin’ Buddha. Photo credit: Rebecca Blissett]

“The exhibition raises interesting questions about how we collectively construct the way our city is portrayed,” according to Joan Seidl, MOV’s Director of Exhibitions and Collections. “There was a real push in the 60s and 70s to redefine Vancouver as a green, natural space. While we may love neon today, there was a real outcry against neon signs, which represented a more industrial, urban city.”

Curated by Joan Seidl and designed by Resolve Design, Neon Vancouver/Ugly Vancouver reaches deep into MOV’s historic neon collection to resurrect some of the city’s former beauties. I’m a huge fan of neon, and I view it as a lost art form of its own.

Owl Drug. Photo credit: Amanda McCuaig
[Owl Drug. Photo credit: Amanda McCuaig]

Long‐time favourites like the Regent Tailors, Owl Drug, and the Drake Hotel, complimented by recently acquired signs such as Clark’s Beauty Salon (Main Street) and the Blue Eagle Café (East Hastings Street) will be on display. Visitors will also get a glimpse of the Smiling Buddha in the History Galleries.

East Hastings Street circa 1969. Photo credit: Walter Griba
[East Hastings Street circa 1969. Photo credit: Walter Griba]

This decidedly urban side of Vancouver’s past will also be explored through the photography of Walter Griba, on public display for the first time. The exhibition runs until Sunday, August 12, 2012.

Neon Vancouver/Ugly Vancouver Opening Party
Date: Wednesday, October 12, 7 pm
Venue: Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver

For more information about the exhibition or to purchase a MOV membership, visit the website.

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