Whoever says Singapore is only filled with modern skyscrapers, HDB flats and traditional shophouses needs some serious schooling. Fact, the city is peppered with a plethora of public art that captures our imagination, from street art to sculptures. From a giant, floating baby in the gardens to a mythical lion-fish creature by the waterfront, this sculpture trail makes for an enlightening walk that combines art and nature together. The best bit? It’s art without charge.
The best start is at the National Museum of Singapore where the city’s oldest museum is surrounded by colossal models. It’s also next to Fort Canning Park, home of the ASEAN Sculpture Garden. But first, get up close with six ridged granite slabs (20 Tonnes by Han Sai Por), a three-metre-tall United Nations Peace Monument for Asia (Let There Be Peace by Alexandra Nechita) and giant chili pepper (Pedas Pedas by Kumari Nahappan).
Step into the lush Fort Canning Green and spot mini domed pavilions – one of the oldest works in the park. The white shelters are designed by Singapore’s first Government Architect and Superintendent of Public, George Dromgold Coleman, who also oversaw the works of the Old Christian cemetery in the park.
As you make your way to the ASEAN Sculpture Garden, be sure to keep on the lookout for quirky bits like a colourful cow made of spare car parts and scrap materials (Incarnation by P. Ghana) and a giant bronze coin that looks like it’s fallen from the sky (Make Cents by Casey Chen).
It’s all peace and harmony at the ASEAN Sculpture Garden as the sculptures contributed by all five country members in 1981, including Brunei’s 1988 addition, exude nothing but good vibes. Enjoy the tranquility of the space as you admire the pieces including the Grandfather of Singapore Sculpture’s very own minimalist concoction of aluminous cement popular known as Ciment Fondu (Balance by Ng Eng Teng).
Though the Esplanade’s durian-like facade is a work of art in itself, the Theatres by the Bay has some solid public art that oozes the sweet sense of nostalgia. While you enjoy the cooling breeze from the waterfront, capture some family love with sculptures of children having fun (Makan Angin by Lim Soo Ngee) and a family of five taking a stroll down Forecourt Garden (Happy Family by Chua Boon Kee). Spotted at the waterfront are also four graphite seeds by the Cultural Medallion recipient Han Sai Por. Seeds represent the germination of the arts on fertile ground – aka the Esplanade.
Between the Cavanaugh Bridge on both sides of the river is the People of the River Sculpture Series which brings scenes of Old Singapore in the area to life. An impressive sight, First Generation by Chong Fah Cheong sees five boys jumping into the river which was a common sight in the yesteryears. Walk down towards Maybank Tower for The River Merchants by Aw Tee Hong where a 19th-century European merchant is conducting business with Malay chief and a Chinese trader.
Cross over to the other side of the river towards the Asian Civilisations Museum. Here, you can find From Chettiars to Financiers by Chern Lian Shan and A Great Emporium by Malcolm Koh. The former showcases money lending services back in the day with a clerk and a manager sitting behind a tiny, low desk on a woven mat. The latter sees a Chinese coolie and a towkay trading items which could likely be silk, cotton, spices and other commodities that were popular in the past.
Go down memory lane at Telok Ayer Green for works by Lim Leong Seng. Marvel at the silhouettes of Indian settlers and Chinese immigrants integrating in the 19th century (Indian Settlers), as well as children carrying decorative flags and banners in a festive street procession for the Mid-Autumn celebrations (Mid-Autumn Lantern Procession).
Cross the road to Far East Square for more Lim Leong Seng masterpieces. Travel back in time at The Pavilion @ Far East Square where you find school children playing a friendly game of chapteh, a feathered shuttlecock juggled using the heel of the foot (School Time Memories). Carry on towards China Square Central and catch a wealthy Peranakan woman on a rickshaw manned by a bare-footed man (Heading Home).
This massive creature needs no introduction. With a lion’s head and a fish’s body, the merlion, constructed by Lim Wang Seng, is the star of the Marina Bay Waterfront. For the uninitiated, Singapore’s iconic mascot is a representation of the city’s beginnings as a fishing village.
Over at Gardens by the Bay – besides the gorgeous indoor and outdoor floral displays – are a couple of stunning sculptures by international artists. We can’t our eyes off a giant baby – nine-metre-long and three-metre tall, to be exact – at The Meadow that’s masterfully balanced on his right hand, cleverly creating the illusion that he’s floating (Planet by Marc Quinn). Catch the sides profiles of two faces staring at the sky at the waterfront promenade by Silver Garden (Watching Clouds by Paul Vanstone).
Top it all off with a bang at Marina Bay Sands which is brimming with dining options for that much-needed refuel. That round stainless steel plate by the lily pond at ArtScience Museum isn’t just any outdoor feature. It’s a depiction of ‘Oculus in space’ by one of the most influential sculptors in the world, Anish Kapoor (Sky Mirror).
Take a break from the outdoors and cool off indoors at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and admire the indoor waterfall. You best believe it’s an artwork by Ned Kahn (Rain Oculus) that creates a whirlpool motion on the promenade level with water plunging through an opening in the centre of the Oculus. Go ahead and marvel the dynamic water skylight feature.