The best urban art trails in Singapore

Get those cameras ready, we’re going on an art trail for murals, sculptures and installations
 House of Tan Teng Niah
House of Tan Teng Niah
By Cam Khalid |
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There’s a good reason why spending time in an art museum takes more than merely an hour. As art junkies, we need a fair amount of time to appreciate and soak up the views of one artwork before moving onto the next. But are art exhibitions and galleries ever enough? The answer is no. From one art type to another, we’ve rounded the best free-and-easy art trails to peep the city’s street art, ranging from murals to sculptures.

RECOMMENDED: Must-see art exhibitions in Singapore and the best museums in Singapore

10 Traditional Trades of Little India by Psyfool

Little India

It’s no surprise that one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in Singapore is none other than Little India. Be sure to look up and walk through alleyways to not miss out on the best bits of street art when exploring the culturally rich precinct.

Start off at Little India MRT Station and exit at Kerbau Road where you’ll come face-to-face with a tall, playful painting of colourful cows on bicycles by Eunice Lim. Less obvious places include venturing down the narrow Race Course Road featuring Jaxton Su JingXiang’s mural of a horse galloping through a market, which leads to Chandar Road where you’ll find Nadiah Alsagoff’s tribute to migrant workers. Other unconventional spots include a carpark decked with a painting of Indian actor Rajinikanth and quirky piece in a narrow lane at Hindoo Road. Down Tekka Lane, look out for a massive mural along by Psyfool and the kaleidoscopic House of Tan Teng Niah. Keep your eyes peeled as you head down towards the Indian Heritage Centre – there are loads more.

Where to start: Little India MRT Station

Thian Hock Keng Mural by Yip Yew Chong
Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Chinatown

The juxtaposition of traditional shophouses and modern skyscrapers is an art in itself. However, take some time to stroll down Chinatown where you’ll be greeted by a number of beautiful street art. Get your cameras ready for a 40-metre mural of the bustling kampong days by Yip Yew Chong along Amoy Street, a giant painting of a rooster by Didier Jaba Mathieu at Ann Siang Hill, artworks lining the walls of Amoy Street Food Centre, as well as life-like sculptures at the small park connecting Amoy Street and Telok Ayer Street.

Make your way towards Chinatown Complex and the Buddha Tooth Relic temple where there are plenty of bright, playful street art by students and local artists along the way. And if you’ve got some juice left in you, walk down to Keong Saik Road for playful, vibrant floral motifs of the Peranakan tiles by art collective Ripple Root, located next to Loloku.

Where to start: Telok Ayer MRT Station

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Piedra Negra

Bugis-Bras Basah

Practically a second home to art students in Singapore, the Bugis-Bras Basah district has a chock-full of impressive murals at every nook and cranny. Alight at Bencoolen MRT Station and head out to the NAFA campus where its walls are covered in random spray tags and graffiti.

Just a few roads down is the Singapore Art Museum. Known for housing contemporary art, the venue is also ace for a fresh rotation of outdoor art installations, ranging from strange oddities to whimsical inflatables.

Head out onto 222 Queen Street and 51 Waterloo Street (aka 222+51) next door. Besides a medley of performing arts offerings, the arts centre has interactive murals – think walls with vintage doors that open to stunning visuals – in the signature style of Yip Yew Chong. Escape to the narrow road next to the building to capture the sights of a sky-high graffiti-filled wall tagged by local and international graffiti artists.

Make the hipster favourite Haji Lane and its surrounding areas your next stop. Hole-in-the-wall shops, cafes and bars aside, the Arab quarters also boasts some of the best art in the city. Draw your eyes to the massive space cadets along Beach Road, another Yip Yew Ching gem by Sultan Gate, a monotoned Ceno2 special by The Singapura Club, and the contrasting vibrant walls of Piedra Negra which a hot favourite amongst tourists.

Stop by the Sultan Arts Village tucked in the quaint Malay enclave of Kampong Glam nearby where you’ll find an explosion of street art and graffiti. Check out The Black Book for all your graffiti tools while you’re at it. Take a stroll further down to Aliwal Arts Centre where fresh wall art pops up on its walls every now and then.

Where to start: Bencoolen or Bugis MRT Station

Constellation of One by Kirsten Berg

Fort Canning

Start your art adventure from Dhoby Ghaut or Bras Basah MRT Station, then make your way down towards the National Museum of Singapore where you’ll spot a sculpture by YMCA that looks like a couple of ninja stars molded together by Tan Teng Kee. Get those cameras ready as you’ll be greeted by a myriad of impressive sculptures including ridged granite blocks, massive kernels, prismatic bronze figures, a colossal chili pepper sculpture and more by local and international artists assembled around the National Museum. Soak in the beauty of Romanian artist Alexandra Nechita’s cubism-style bronze female sculpture that’s also United Nations Peace Monument for Asia.

Head towards the nearby Fort Canning Park next for the ASEAN Sculpture Garden. Sited at the green, tranquil spot are modern sculptures created and donated by the five member countries of ASEAN – The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Where to start: Dhoby Ghaut or Bras Basah MRT Station

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Singapore River

Civic District

It’s a blast to past at the Civic District where history meets arts. Alighting from City Hall MRT Station, make your way to the National Gallery Singapore where you can find benches under the sheltered walkway featuring Tan Zi Xi’s (aka MessyMsxi) whimsical characters. The gallery itself is also a work of art. It retains the iconic exterior of the Old Supreme Court in all its architectural splendour but undergone a makeover where two buildings are joined together by a curved roof. It’s worth taking a pit stop inside as the interiors and art exhibitions are as stunning as its majestic facade.

We might not have the Michaelangelo statue, but cross over to Victoria Theatre for the arm-crossing piece of the founder of modern Singapore Sir Stamford Raffles. Walk down towards the Singapore River for the Arts House where you’ll find the bronze Elephant Statue gifted by King Chulalongkorn of Thailand. It’s an outdoor art galore down here, with plenty of installations planted in the area. Past by the Asian Civilisations Museum and walk by the Singapore River where busts of historical figures, giant silver balls and exclusive modern art figures are sited. Cross over the Cavenagh Bridge for more bronze statues depicting Old Singapore.

Where to start: City Hall MRT Station

Momentum by David Gerstein
Momentum by David Gerstein

The CBD

If you’ve been hitting the CBD for either business or leisure, you’ll be accustomed to the eye-catching sculptures by renown international artists including Roy Lichtenstein’s brush-stroked figures in full pop-art glory at Millenia Walk. A walk towards Pan Pacific Singapore leads you to Lin Emery’s wave-like stainless steel sculpture. Treat yourself to a plethora of abstract art from Marina Square to Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Admire twisting sculptures by Charles Perry, the magnificent figure by Olivier Strebelle, a stunning piece by Antoine Poncet that sits in the middle of the Oriental’s fountain, and more. For freshly rotated outdoor art, head over to Esplanade’s outdoor plaza where you’ll also catch local sculptor Han Sai Por’s seed-like giants.

A stroll down the waterside gets you a view of the Merlion, and further down towards OUE Bayfront is the famous bull by Anna C Spellini. The one you can’t miss out is the city’s tallest public sculpture located between Finlayson Green and Raffles Quay – Momentum by David Gerstein. A nod to the Singaporeans who contributed in creating the vibrant city, the cone-shaped, kaleidoscopic sculpture is made up of small figures in a variety of hues, standing at 18 metres.

Where to start: Esplanade or Raffles Place MRT Station

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Nutmeg and Mace by Kumari Nahappan

Orchard

Singapore’s famous shopping district, including its surrounding hotels, is decked with a number of bold outdoor art installations. Come night time, check out Stephanie Scuris fountain sculpture at Regent Singapore where it’s accompanied with multi-coloured LED visuals. Down St. Regis Singapore sit three abstract art pieces by Li Chen, Fernando Botero and Anthony Poon, while Hilton Singapore is home to two statues by Aw Eng Kwang, as well as an embellishment by Gerard D’Alton Henderson at the entrance of the hotel.

Before stepping into the air-conditioned shopping havens, admire the stunning outdoor art. Right outside ION Orchard is the unmissable brightly-coloured caricatures by Kurt Laurenz Metzler, as well as Kumari Nahappan’s giant nutmeg and mace. Walk past Wisma Atria towards Ngee Ann City where you’ll spot a gleaming art piece atop its outdoor water fountain by Professor Liu Ji Lin. Cross over to Paragon for Sun Yu-li’s statues inspired by cave-paintings.

Where to start: Orchard MRT Station

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