I’m spending a hot, sweltering summer in Singapore and while going out and about, I noticed something pretty hard to miss: Singapore has many sculptures! There are a number which I have grown up seeing, some that I’ve seen in the last few years, and others that are completely new to me.
Using sculptures as Singapore’s preferred form of public art is, to me, actually a great idea given Singapore’s wide spaces and greenery and its buildings’ shiny facades. The sculptures are mostly located in Singapore’s business and shopping areas, so they are planted perfectly along a tourist’s route! :D
| Cover picture: David Gerstein, Momentum, 2007, Raffles Quay |
So I decided to take a city tour, and see the sculptures on display. I started off my sculpture hunting with David Gerstein’s sculpture (above). I’d been driven past it so many times on numerous joyrides so it’s definitely familiar.
While looking for a spot to take a good shot, I discovered so many other sculptures at Raffles Place! I’d never found a reason to go into the business district, so the range of sculptures in the area were all completely new to me.
Yang Ying-Feng, Progress & Advancement, commissioned and presented by Lien Ying Chow on 8.8.1988
A sculpture tracking Singapore’s kampong past to the modern skyscaper views we have today.
Anish Kapoor, Ocean Financial Centre
Ocean Financial Centre
Jaume Plensa, Soul, 2011, painted stainless steel
An open sculpture of a seated figure with his knees brought to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs. I’m not too keen on the sitting position, but I do love the Chinese characters, English and Malay letters and the Tamil words that make up the figure. It well represents Singapore’s linguistic diversity, and is very effective in catching your attention.
This is located at the back of Ocean Financial Centre, and you can see David Gerstein’s Momentum across the road from here.
Past the large green space at Raffles Place, there is Ocean Financial Centre. Beyond its sculptures around the building, it has a gorgeous triangle-paneled roof and also boasts a Guinness World Record for the world’s Largest Vertical Garden.
This is an exception, but this long colorful mural of people shopping and dining was too good not to share.
Salvador Dalí, Homage to Newton, 1985, bronze with dark patina, UOB Plaza
Seeing a work of Dalí on the street was an absolutely delightful surprise! He was an important player of the Surrealism movement that started in the 1920s. I’m not familiar with the period, but to summarize it simply, it played with ideas relating to the subconscious and the mind. To know more, do check out this essay on Surrealism at Met Museum.
Putting that aside, this sculpture pays homage to Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of the law of gravity. The story goes that an apple fell on Newton’s head while he was sitting under an apple tree and then, Eureka! He discovered gravity. The falling apple is represented by the ball hanging from the right hand of the figure.
I like the detail of the ball in the figure’s chest though, because it looks like it represents the figure’s CG (center of gravity), HA!
One Raffles Place
Royal Group Building
Royal One Philip
Henry Moore, Large Reclining Figure, 1984, OCBC Centre
Fernando Botero, Bird, 1932, bronze, UOB Plaza
I don’t think I’m the only one who has walked along the streets of Clarke Quay and wondered what this large bird is doing smack dab beside the river. Turns out it’s part of UOB Plaza, and the bird is meant to signify peace and serenity. I find it funny how I never guessed it was Botero’s work either, as it’s in keeping with Botero’s voluptuous artworks. Bird has been around since 1990.
Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, 1902, OUE Bayfront
I’ve seen this for a while now and really, The Thinker is one of those artworks that is known everywhere. I was really excited this time to see it again because I’d just learned a bit about Rodin’s works in a class last semester, and also learned that The Thinker was made by Rodin himself. (I’d never heard of Rodin, but I knew of The Thinker, HAHAHA.)
Rodin was a sculptor of the Symbolism period that started in the 1880s. I don’t understand and/or like Symbolism and/or Symbolist artists in general, but Rodin is the exception for me. Rodin is brilliant at imbuing his sculpted figures with character and emotion, and showing the figures’ bodily tension using only the single material of bronze. This is something I always miss, but take a look again, and you’ll notice that The Thinker‘s right arm is bent on his left knee. His entire body also looks like it’s going in on itself, and he’s balancing on a small slab of stone, much too small to seat his large figure. In real life, it would be way uncomfortable.
Another thing is that Rodin liked to leave his sculptures looking unrefined. You can see how he worked the sculpture with his hands especially on the stone seat, and the figure definitely doesn’t look “perfect.” This could be said to be related to Symbolist themes, but I’m not good at talking about Symbolism, so do check out this essay on Symbolism at Met Museum.
There’s a park called Merlion Park with a mini Merlion right behind the actual Merlion. This is so hilarious!
Roy Lichtenstein, Six Brushstrokes, 1997, aluminium, Roy Lichtenstein Sculpture Plaza, Millenia Walk
I’ve seen these sculptures so many times, but I never knew these were by Roy Lichtenstein of Pop Art fame! These last few works of Lichtenstein’s combine Chinese calligraphic techniques with Western artistic themes. I don’t really see it, to be honest; I always just thought they were colorful and fun.
ASEAN Sculpture Garden, Fort Canning Park
These sculptures are part of the ASEAN Sculpture Garden in Singapore’s iconic Fort Canning Park but I got scared away from exploring more because of mosquitoes. -.-
Green space opposite UE Square
Furama Riverfront Hotel
Kumari Nahappan, Nutmeg & Mace, 2009, bronze, Ion Orchard
Fun fact: Ion Orchard’s site used to be a nutmeg plantation!
Wei Chi Jing De, 1975, Hilton Hotel
Qiu Shu Bao, 1975, Hilton Hotel
These figures were generals of Emperor Tang Tai Zong in the Tang dynasty (618 CE) who were thought to possess special powers. They are seen as guardians of doorways in popular Chinese belief.
Anthony Poon, Sense Surround #4, 2006, painted aluminium, St. Regis Hotel
Li Chen, Dragon-Riding Bodhisattva, 2001, St. Regis Hotel
Dr. Ng Eng Teng, Mother & Child, beside Forum The Shopping Mall
Gramercy Park sales gallery, before Tomlinson Road
Yayoi Kusama, Let’s Go to a Paradise of Glorious Tulips, 2009, mixed media, Orchard Central rooftop
I never thought I would see a piece by Yayoi Kusama, known for her polka-dotted works, for the first time in Singapore!
Victor Tan Wee Tar, The Stair, The Clouds and The Sky, 2009, stainless steel wires and rods, Orchard Central rooftop
Anish Kapoor, Sky Mirror, 2010, stainless steel, collection of Marina Bay Sands, lily pond outside of ArtScience Museum
UPDATE: Freshly viewed sculpture along the beautiful stretch outside the ArtScience Museum! Sky Mirror aptly reflects the sky, and a bit of the lotus design of ArtScience Museum.
There are so many sculptures on the streets of Singapore and I still have a few in mind that I haven’t got round to visiting yet. The biggest surprise for me was discovering artworks by renowned modern artists and popular contemporary artists that had long been sitting on the streets waiting to be discovered.
I will update this post when I do see more! In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this post and have fun hunting them down for yourself if you’re in Singapore! ;)