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British artist pays homage to Hong Kong’s neon

Artist Faye Wei Wei’s first foray into neon pays tribute to Hong Kong’s neon sign-making heritage and is now on public display at the British Council.

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A British Chinese artist’s neon piece goes on public display. Photo: ATUM Images

Part of the British Council’s inaugural SPARK festival in Hong Kong, celebrating ‘The Science and Art of Creativity,’ Wei Wei brought a new installation titled ‘Neon Spark’ to celebrate the iconic Hong Kong tradition of illuminated sign-making.

Her neon piece, titled ‘Frail Silver of The Climbing Stars,’ has now been put on public display at the British Council until it is auctioned off this month by auction house Phillips. All proceeds from the sale will go towards a new project from the British Council focusing on nurturing Hong Kong’s young creative talent.

Named ‘One to Watch’ by British Vogue in 2018, Wei Wei created the neon piece as part of the Neon Spark installation to pay homage to the history of neon sign-making and to start a conversation on preserving heritage and culture in the city.

Fay Wei Wei with ‘Frail Silver of The Climbing Stars.’ Photo: ATUM Images

“I have always been drawn to things in pairs,” comments Wei Wei. “My compositions often end up being heart-shaped: two lovers dancing, two boxers fighting, a tulip caressing another tulip, a horse in duet with its rider. I guess it’s also to do with the nature of things having an opposite - every flower has a shadow, every moon has a sun.”

Where neon once saturated many cities and towns across the world, it has almost completely disappeared from view due to new regulations. According to tourism publication CityLife, up to 90% of the main neon lights in the city have disappeared in the last two decades.

However, there are many heritage groups and projects working to preserve neon signage for years to come. Wei Wei worked with one of Hong Kong’s last remaining neon light masters to create this piece, which also aimed to highlight the theme of duality by combining the skill of a fine artist with that of a neon signage technician.

[The work] offers a unique perspective on the tradition of neon sign-making, an artform that has long been synonymous with Hong Kong

Antony J. Chan, head of arts and creative industries at the British Council in Hong Kong, adds: “One of the most talked-about attractions at the SPARK festival, Faye Wei Wei’s ‘Frail Silver of The Climbing Stars’ offers a unique perspective on the tradition of neon sign-making, an artform that has long been synonymous with Hong Kong.

“We are therefore delighted, not only to give more people the opportunity to see this stunning work, but also to be able to auction it with Phillips to help set up an exciting new project that aims to develop young creative talent in Hong Kong.

“At the British Council, we believe that creativity and imagination play a vital role across all areas of life. The imperative to nurture creativity among young people in Hong Kong and across the world is compelling.”

The artwork was first unveiled at the SPARK festival’s opening ceremony in January this year at the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, attracting over 14,000 visitors to the three-day event. 

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