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Smilin' Buddha Cabaret sign

Significance 

The Smilin’ Buddha is one of the most iconic pieces of neon from Vancouver’s colourful history of neon signs. The Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret at 109 East Hastings Street was at the centre of Vancouver’s changing entertainment scene for decades. In the 1950s, the nightclub was a symbol of Vancouver’s post-war prosperity and bustle as captured in the photographic work of Fred Herzog. In the 1960s psychedelic era, it hosted acts such as Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. In the late 1970s, as punk and alternative music took hold in North America, the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret was ground zero for Vancouver’s new independent music scene. In 1992, after the club had closed, the rock band 54-40 acquired the sign, restored it, and the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret became the name of their 1994 release. The eight hundred-pound sign features neon on both faces. The Buddha’s chin and belly appear to jiggle, as bands of neon light flicker.

Date Range 
c. 1950
Place of Manufacture 
Wallace Neon Ltd., Vancouver
Place of Use 
109 East Hastings Street
Dimensions 
162.6 cm high, 315 cm long, 33 cm deep
Museum Location 
You Say You Want a Revolution gallery
Catalog Number 
H2008.26.1
Donor 
Brad Merrit, Neil Osborne and Matt Johnson (54-40 members)