Sunday, September 05, 2004

Saving neons -- or burying them?

One of our readers sent on this story from The Guardian, alarmed that, even though Sydney Landmark signs such as the Golf House and AWA signs were to be preserved, they would be buried in a Powerhouse Museum building at Castle Hill.

by Jonathan Jones
Wednesday September 1, 2004

Black Victorian carriages and corsets cram the dusty halls of Gunnersbury Park Museum on the western edge of London, in a mansion once owned by the Rothschilds. The museum acknowledges there is not really room to display its latest acquisition, the Lucozade sign that until this week met drivers entering London on the M4. Instead, it will exhibit disassembled parts of the sign; 1950s circuits and transistors and slender red lettering will be dismantled and put into glass cases.

This glowing sign, created in 1953, proclaimed an innocent belief in a product that was good for you. A yellow bottle poured goodness into a glass. The neat text promised "Lucozade aids recovery". Recently it was changed to "Lucozade replaces lost energy".

Public enthusiasm forced the drug company divesting itself of this example of 1950s commercial art on the old Lucozade building in west London to do some nifty footwork. "A Lucozade committee" decided the sign's future. GlaxoSmithKline says a replacement sign will appear on a nearby building in a more contemporary style.

I don't know how careful the sign's dismantlers were, but I know they were quick. Arriving on the day it was scheduled to be patiently boxed like an archaeological relic, I walked from the museum through Gunnersbury Park, where a gothic boathouse built by the Rothschilds rots by a lake, windows boarded up, gargoyles mouldy - itself a candidate for restoration. At the site of the Lucozade sign I found nothing but the pale shadow of an "L".

The ruined Lucozade building has every window smashed and is covered in graffiti. Traffic races above. The story feels like a con. The museum will have the sign to delight future generations. But it evidently can't afford to do much with its bit of modernist graphic art. Maybe the drug company should make a substantial donation, and help the park in which the museum stands. In reality, this bit of the British commercial past has not been "saved". It has gone. And the road is a bit bleaker.


Anonymous said...

I love Neon.

Which bankrupt business in Darlo Rd can afford the cost of putting them up and maintaining them?


The Editor said...

Indeed -- especially now it appears no money will be forthcoming for awnings and signage for most of the businesses. That'll sort those nuisance activists from the Cross!