Bright Lights, Big City

Exactly 100 years ago the French chemist Georges Claude took a colorless, single atom gas and put it under pressure in a column of glass, thus perfecting red neon lighting.


By experimenting with other gases and chemical compounds, an entire palette of color was created and within 30 years artists were manipulating the material to create monumental works of art.

As early as the 1940s, the internationally acclaimed artist Lucio Fontana saw the value in the medium as “a new element which has entered into the aesthetic of the man on the street”.

Artistic interest continued through the 1960s, creating an illuminating body of thought-provoking work that has been largely overlooked by the art world.

This negligence inspired curator David Rosenberg to assemble the world’s first comprehensive exhibition of neon art. Neon, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?, housed at La Maison Rouge art space in Paris, is an exhaustive collection of over 100 pieces displayed by theme, era or chemical effects.


A work by Fiona Stewart, with words perched in the branches of a tree, greets the visitor upon arrival at this popular exhibit.

As you first enter, a melting Tabac sign hangs above, reminding you that you are in Paris.

A spaghetti-like string of white tubing by Fontana represents his ‘Spatial Environment’ art movement.

There is a neon room displaying a handful of works that feature the glowing red gas. Carlos Cruz-Diez’s color saturation area encourages visitors to play with light as they move from one intensely colored area to the next, blocks of color defining the space.

This is a fun, easy show to visit and is made even better by a stop at the museum’s Rose Bakery for lunch or brunch (Wednesdays through Sundays). Or order yours to go and take in the scenery overlooking the boats and barges in the Arsenal docks, just across the street.

The show runs until May 20.

La Maison Rouge – 10 boul de la Bastille, 12e

This Guest Post and images are provided by Sylvia Sabes. Sylvia writes about art and life in Paris on her blog, FindingNoon.

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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