Are you a tourist planning a trip to Singapore? If so, welcome to ArtKlan, a dedicated guide to art in Singapore. And, if you are specifically looking for public art sculptures, then you are in the right place. So, read on…
Singapore, also known as the Little Red Dot, is a walking museum in itself. It is a small country, and is full of open artworks and sculptures.
Modern sculptures are windows that provide a tacit yet comprehensive look into the history of a given region. Such historical sculptures are scattered in and around Singapore. Whether you are into historical sculpture or modern art, the country has something for everyone. It is for this reason why travel agencies incorporate public art sculptures into tourists’ itineraries. Alternatively, even if you are on your own, it would be best to keep the final two days of your trip for an excursion. What would your friends say if you go to Singapore and miss the Merlion?
Hence, to start you up, I have created this list of 20 world-famous public art sculptures in Singapore. Experience at least five of them, and you can call yourself a true tourist.
Singapore Public Art Sculptures
1. The Merlion
One of the most recognisable sculptures in the world, the Merlion is considered as the national personification of Singapore. The word “Merlion” is formed from the words “mer”, meaning the “sea”, and “lion”. Moreover, “Sea-lions” are part of a number of mythological traditions around the world. The half fish and half lion statue symbolises the humbleness of Singaporean people. Merlion is the perfect spot for you and your friends to take a groupfie.
2. The Bird
Located at UOB Plaza near Raffles Place is a huge sculpture of a fat bird in a squatting position. In fact, you are not totally convinced it’s a bird. Because you have never seen such a bird before. Be that as it may, this one is a cherished property built by Colombian sculptor and figurative artist Fernando Botero. Made entirely of bronze, it was sponsored by the United Overseas Bank Limited in 1990.
According to Botero, the sculpture represents peace, serenity, and joy
3. Progress & Advancement
For people who don’t know much about Singaporean public art sculptures, the Progress & Advancement sculpture would sound like a sub-section in a technical paper of a recently invented concept design. But, in reality, it is the mark of Singapore’s financial division. Similar to how a bull’s sculpture is placed at the entrance of stock exchanges in different countries, this one here is exclusive for Singapore. It was created by Yang-Ying Feng.
4. Dual Universe
Dual Universe is considered to be the most abstract and inspiring art sculptures of Singapore. Because, it has been carved into a singular object out of two forms. Renowned sculptor Charles O. Perry was inspired by the mysteries of space and time. In order to give substance to his understanding, he made this. His interpretations led to its creation, and ultimately we have the Dual Universe. It is located in front of the Singapore Land Tower at Raffles Place.
5. Homage to Newton
Great scientists deserve to be respected. Hence, Homage to Newton, a bronze sculpture created by renowned Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. As the name suggests, it is an artsy tribute to Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th century English physicist. He is regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time. His most well-known discovery was the law of gravity. All things considered, I think it’s a perfect tribute. Because, when you observe the sculpture, you will understand why Dali was a legend.
In fact, Dali created it to showcase Newton’s decipherment of gravity. Considered an iconic sculpture in Singapore, it thus looks like it is floating in space. The ball at the centre is falling off the right-hand side of the statue, in the representation of the falling apple. Moreover, the head symbolises the open-minded capacity of Newton who went beyond his limits to make the discovery.
6. Struggle for Survival
Aw Tee Hong, a Singaporean artist, wanted to capture the essence of his fellow natives. So, he created the “Struggle for Survival”, a futuristic sculpture located in front of the OUB Centre. Made up of iron, brass, and copper, Hong’s creation is a marvel to the spectators.
7. Pioneering Spirit
That’s the thing with public art sculptures in Singapore. They are not named in a conventional fashion. So, I present you another unusually-named sculpture by our neighbourhood lad Aw Tee Hong: Pioneering Spirit. According to Hong, his creation represents the vitality of a forerunner. It is located towards the exit of Raffles Place.
8. Reclining Figure
If English artist Henry Moore is popular for one thing, then it is his series of reclining figures. Placed around the world in different countries, this one in Singapore was gifted by the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation. Made of bronze, it is a symbol of gratitude.
9. First Generation
Walking along the Singapore river, you will find amazing pieces of life-like sculptures of humans frolicking around the walled bank. Called “First Generation”, it was created by Chong Fah Cheong in an attempt to reminisce the good ol’ days. Cheong wanted the river area to be remembered as a lively place where children once used to play.
Back in the day, the river was polluted, but the children didn’t care and were not intimidated even by the garbage that used to float in the river. By 1983, the Clean River project was launched, providing a new life to the river with clean water flow.
10. Fishing at Singapore River
Also situated beside the river is this pacifying sculpture of a fisherman and his dog. Designed by Taiwanese sculptor Chern Lian Shan, it represents life before the colonial times. Due to this, many tourists misconstrue the man to be an epitome of sadness. But, in reality, the man is sitting idly by the river thinking about his life. The sculpture is known to give a tranquil vibe to the onlookers.
11. From Chettiars to Financiers
This one represents the old days of Singapore when it was setting itself as a business hub. It depicts the lives of street merchants and their trading houses and financial institutions which mushroomed in the country in the early 80s. Conceived by Chern Lian Shan, it captures that entire scene in a single 3-dimensional frame.
12. Singapura Cats
If you are a cat lover, then you will definitely fall in love with this work of art. Singapura Cat is a breed of cats exclusively found in the country. Strangely enough, the breed had its own share of controversies back in the 70s. Hence, the sculpture was made as a tribute. Originally a glaring of 15 cats were placed alongside the river. However, only three have survived over the years. People often joke that the rest may be out there in the streets, considering the nature of the breed.
13. Sir Stamford Raffles
The “Sir Stamford Raffles” sculpture is one of the greatest in Singapore. As per records, it was installed by Singapore’s 14th Governor, and is an act of recognition of the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria and her reign.
14. Thai Elephant
It is a mesmerising statue of a black elephant placed right in front of the Old Parliament House site. As a matter of fact, it was constructed as a memorial to the visit of the King of the Siam Somdech Phra Paramindr Maha Chulalonkorn in 1873.
15. Guardian Lions
Do you watch Hollywood films? Then there is a high chance that you have seen these sculptures. The Guardian Lions, located in Gardens by the Bay, are a prime example of traditional Chinese craftsmanship. In Chinese mythology, these lions are believed to have powerful protective benefits. Hence, they are always presented in pairs, with the male on the right with its right playing with a ball. On the left is the female lion holding a cub under her left paw. The latter symbolises the cycle of life.
According to Taoist philosophy, the paired lions are also a representation of yin (female) and yang (male). While the male lion guards the entrance, the female one protects the interior of the dwelling.
Tourists experience a sense of awe at the sight of this sculpture, commonly known just as “Planet”. Why? Because it looks like it is floating. A 7-ton baby figure, it stands at 3 meters in height and 9 meters in width. Moreover, it is perfectly balanced on the child’s right hand, creating the impression that the statue is floating in the air. Even so, it is not a very old sculpture. It was built in 2008, and was exhibited for the first time at “Beyond Limits at Chatsworth House”, a contemporary sculpture exhibition.
17. Dragonfly Riders
Another pair of the obscure public art sculptures in Singapore, this one is a real charmer. These are the Jurrasic-era dragonflies. If you notice, the laser-cut meshed pattern used on their wings encases colourful art glasses, which give a fascinating effect at night. Further, the eyes of the dragonflies – blue in one sculpture, red in the other – are made of mouth-blown glass flecked with gold. It is one of the many sculptures at Gardens by the Bay which makes it a must-go site for tourists.
18. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple has a massive collection of colourful art sculptures. They depict god and goddess on the Vedic tradition, and are collectively known to narrate short stories. If you are looking for tranquillity, then this is the place to be.
19. Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple
Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple dates back to the late 1800s, and is one of the oldest temples in Singapore. That is because of its varied carvings. The dome and the side walls depict countless incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, and the latter’s sweet and sublime pastimes with His dearest devotees. So, as you move around, you will find many different sculptures narrating interesting stories.
20. Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple
Along the Serangoon Road, you will get another colourful treat for your eyes. While the above two temples have mythological stories to tell, this one here has fables that will keep both the young and the young at heart occupied. So, make sure you don’t keep this for the final day of your trip.
Whether it is about cats, merchants, trading, Isaac Newton, temples, or historical legends, these sculptures can bring out unexpected emotions in each one of you. The large number of public art sculptures in Singapore are one of the best attractions offered. Together, they do bring out a lot of beauty as well as concepts and cultural aspects of Singapore.
Such creative installations are a great way of preserving what has happened or what artists have felt. Thus, it enables them to offer their contributions to humanity and enhance the beauty of a place.
So which ones have you visited? And which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments. (And, pictures or it didn’t happen, right? Get out them selfies!)
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