Friday, 1 May 2015

Singapore's Raffles Place Outdoor Public Art Trail

No need to pay a fee to go into a museum to see arts. Free public arts are scattered in the CBD, in this case, Raffles Place area.

You can think of this art trail starts where the Singapore River Outdoor Statues and Sculptures Walking Trail ends.

Art trail street directory
(click to enlarge)

While you can combine these 2 trails in one walk, the artworks in these 2 trails are quite different in nature. In the 1st trail - Singapore River Outdoor Statues and Sculptures Walking Trail - you will be able to see statues and sculptures that depict Singapore's past. Ok, they aren't so much arts but statues and dioramas that help to portray Singapore history. They're largely commissioned by the government.

The artwork on this walking trail, on the other hand, has a mix of local and international artists, and are commissioned by individuals, companies and government. The artworks are dotted around office buildings of Raffles Place.

All the public artworks on these 2 art trails are within minutes walking distance. You can easily do this 2 walking trails together in a leisurely pace in half a day. Took me a little longer. But I'm a slow walker and a very keen shutterbug.


  Bird (1990)

We start our art trail just some 20 or meters from the Singapore River Outdoor Statues and Sculptures Walking Trail by continue to walk along the river. You can't possibly miss this 2m tall bronze bird just outside the OUB Plaza. Fan of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero will instantly recognise it.

Singaporean embraces Botero's works of rotund figures (if their arms are long enough). His sculptures are scattered around Singapore from St. Regis Hotel to The Metropolitan (I will write an article showing where his works around Singapore).


Bird by Fernando Botero, Raffles Place, Singapore

Bird by Fernando Botero, Raffles Place, Singapore


 Homage to Newton (1985)

Take the low stairs and make your way into the main entrance/podium of UOB Plaza, you'll find the statue created by yet another Spanish speaking artist Salvador Dali, who's best known for the delicious images with melting clocks of surrealism.

The holes in the head and torso symbolises "open-mindedness" and "open-hearted". If it weren't for the plaque (middle photo below) explains this, I would've easily misinterpreted for "empty-headedness" (air head) and "no-guts" (or gutless). But to the Zen Buddhist, empty heads and guts are good things. I have no idea (air head), and too scare to speculate (gutless). I'm not a Zen Buddhist.


Homage to Newton by Salvador Dali, Raffles Place, Singapore Homage to Newton by Salvador Dali, Raffles Place, Singapore Homage to Newton by Salvador Dali, Raffles Place, Singapore


 Reclining Figure (1983)

Walk down to Chulia st and turn right (you probably don't need such detail direction. But I like to direct), and look across the street and you should see an impressive (and somewhat Cubist) bronze sculpture in front of OCBC Centre (65 Chulia St), reclining at a reflecting pool (typical poolside sunbathing activity).

This is Reclining Figure created by the notable UK sculptor Henry Moore. He's illustrious for creating reclining figures as his subject of his artistic creation ever since he saw the Toltec-Maya reclining figure as a beginner sculptor. This particular reclining figure is arguably the most definitive among his works.

Both Henry Moore and Salvador Dali born and worked in almost identical period (and lengthy career) in much of the 20th century in the period that defines Modernism. It shouldn't come as a surprise that they share certain similar attitudes towards Modernist Movement, especially regarding to pioneering abstract sculptures that we've taken for granted today.


Reclining Figure by Henry Moore, Raffles Place, Singapore
Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure"

Reclining Figure by Henry Moore, Raffles Place, Singapore Reclining Figure by Henry Moore, Raffles Place, Singapore Reclining Figure by Henry Moore, Raffles Place, Singapore


Where did Mr. Moore get a model like this? I know you guys think she's somebody who's very attractive to date with because of her curvy and slim waist. Let me play the Devil's Advocate and point out some down sides. Going out to dinner with her would require you to give her a (fork)lift in a truck, and book half or a (w)hole restaurant (depending on the size of the restaurant) just for her. And you would also find her quite cold and unresponsive.


Mynah bird having a bath
Mynah bird having a bath at the reflecting pool
(click to enlarge)
This Mynah (not Minah) bird created quite a ripple and splash with her nature bath. It's not polite to stare.


 Progress and Advancement (1988)

This is sculpture by Taiwanese artist Yang Ying-Feng. It was commissioned by OUB founder George Lien Ying Chow.

Looking at the sculpture with a circular base starting in the "back" of the sculpture and progress from right to left (Chinese writes from right to left), you can see a large junk that carries Chinese families from southern China. Moving further to the left, you can see some canoes and a small village. As you continue glance towards left, you will see a large junk, and eventually at the extremely left, you see a modern city of Singapore.

The spiral looks like one of those top of a sardine or biscuit can where you open by pulling on the ring.

The 360° panoramic view of the progress of Singapore.

Progress and Advancement by Yang Ying-Feng, Raffles Place, Singapore Progress and Advancement by Yang Ying-Feng, Raffles Place, Singapore Progress and Advancement by Yang Ying-Feng, Raffles Place, Singapore


Progress and Advancement by Yang Ying-Feng, Raffles Place, Singapore

Progress and Advancement by Yang Ying-Feng, Raffles Place, Singapore


 Bank of China Lions (1954)

Continue to head down on Battery Road towards the end of the block and you'll arrive the white art-deco building that's Bank of China. Unsurprisingly, the Bank of China is guarded by a pair of ceremonial lions (Dogs of Fu) at its main entrance. What's surprising is that they're designed by an Italian sculptor Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli, who worked extensively in SE Asia during the 1st half of the 20th century.

Bank of China, Raffles Place, Singapore Bank of China Lions by Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli, Raffles Place, Singapore Bank of China, Raffles Place, Singapore
Bank of China Lions by Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli, Raffles Place, Singapore Bank of China Lions by Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli, Raffles Place, Singapore

His works are scattered around Singapore's Civic District. He also carried out various works and designs on the former Supreme Court building that's has transformed into National Gallery Singapore in late 2015.

Dome of former Supreme Court, Singapore
Dome of the old Supreme Court building in the background

 Momentum (2007)

Want to see a Christmas tree that stands in the middle of an island in Raffles Places all year round ? Sound poetic? On a triangular traffic island that forms where Collyer Quay splits into 2 roads of traffic flows much like water flowing around an island (sound poetic?), you'll find the tallest public sculpture in Singapore that looks like a big red Xmas tree at Finlayson Green. It's created by Israeli artist David Gerstein.

He's known for his outdoor artworks and bold colours. This sculpture captures his artistic style quite well.

Trivia: Do you know that Finlayson Green is the shortest road in this tiny country of Singapore with only about 80m long? So have a good long look when you're there.

Momentum by David Dudu Gerstein, Raffles Place, Singapore Momentum by David Dudu Gerstein, Raffles Place, Singapore
Momentum by David Dudu Gerstein, Raffles Place, Singapore Momentum by David Dudu Gerstein, Raffles Place, SingaporeMomentum by David Dudu Gerstein, Raffles Place, Singapore


 Singapore Soul (2011)

This sculpture is created by a 3rd Spanish-speaking artist -  Jaume Plensa - in this trail.

The outline or contour of this seated (actually squatting) figure - the Singapore Soul - is formed from steel that composed of 4 official language writings/scripts of Singapore: Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil (in alphabetical order). It reflects Singapore ethnic diversity.

The sculpture surface contains words like "country", "unity", "happiness", "unity", community" to embody the dual quality of cultural harmony and diversity.

The interior of the sculpture feels like a pavilion. Its great to stay inside for photo, especially wedding photo.

Singapore Soul by Juam Plensa, Raffles Place, Singapore Singapore Soul by Juam Plensa, Raffles Place, Singapore



 Harmony (1993)

Harmoney by Yuyu Yang, Raffles Place, Singapore


 Tall Tree & The Eye (2013)

Stand in front of the main entrance of Ocean Financial Centre is a 14m tall installation of  a "tree" with 73 shinny stainless steel reflecting spheres is hard to miss.

This public artwork is created by Anish Kapoor, a Indian-British sculptor who was knighted in 2013 for his works. He's notable for creating the most expensive sculpture in the world, Cloud Gate, costing $23m. Some of his other commissions were also cost in the millions.

This sculpture had been installed in many prominent places in the international art world including Guggenhein Bilbao Museum and Royal Academy of Arts.

The first thing this installation struck me was that it looks like a molecular structure one often sees in a chemistry textbook. I checked it out from Queenstown Library to learn the name of this molecule, but no luck.

One of the aims of this art piece is its reflective actions where the various spheres reflect each other as well as reflecting the surrounding, and the observers in ever changing mirrored images. Also the structure itself is also ever changing as it's observed from various angles and distances.

Don't turn on your flash when taking it, you'll be blinded with a thousand reflecting flashes.

According the Kapoor, the work is inspired by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. "It is a conjunction of images I have always loved in his Sonnets to Orpheus and this work is, in a way, a kind of eye which is reflecting images endlessly," said Kapoor.

Tall Tree and the Eye by Anish Kapoor, Raffles Place, Singapore Tall Tree and the Eye by Anish Kapoor, Raffles Place, Singapore Tall Tree and the Eye by Anish Kapoor, Raffles Place, Singapore

The column of middle spheres in the middle photos above show reflections of me shooting them spheres.

Tall Tree and the Eye by Anish Kapoor, Raffles Place, Singapore
Orbs mirroring each other, resulting spheres of  fractal spheres.
Do these spheres make me look fat? No. It makes me look fractionally small , yet multiply by many.


 School of Fish (2013)

Across from the Kapoor's sculpture is a 20m wide rectangular wavy wall with swirling school of fishes that are made out of coloured glass.

For an office building that named Ocean Financial Centre. it seems befitting for an art installation with the theme of marine life. This piece is mounted below the Green Wall (more about it later), and consists of 999 glass fishes. '9' is a lucky number as it's pun with 'long life' or 'permanent' (δΉ…) in Chinese. If she created in for Australian customer, it will likely be a round number like 1000. Go ahead, count them!

The installation is created by an Australian sculptor B Jan Cowie (now a Singaporean PR). The concept behind this sculpture is quite clear, that individuals form communities, which are stronger than individuals.

School of Fish by B Jan Cowie, Raffles Place, Singapore


If you look closely at the fishes, they're either concave or convex to mirror or contrast the undulation of the wavy wall.

School of Fish by B Jan Cowie, Raffles Place, Singapore



 Green Wall

Just above the School of Fish above is the Vertical Garden (all make sense. Vertical pond/pool below a vertical garden). This is strictly not a public art, or is it? It's a topiary/landscaping art, and it's in public space. Well, I'm not going to be pedantic about it. It has entered the Guinness World Records in the Largest Vertical Garden category, covering an area of 20 x 19m.

It uses different plants to depict different continents of the world. This photo actually captured the map of the world more clearly than what I could see on the day with my naked eye, which is often isn't the case.

Green Wall, Ocean Financial Centre, Raffles Place, Singapore


 Pioneering Spirit, aka Vitality of the Forerunner (1988)

Locate right next to the Green Wall is one of the older sculpture that was installed in this trail. This abstract - appears like a Cubist (excuse me for having a pair of 3D eye) - work of a Chinese junk was created by a Hainan-born local artist Aw Tee Hong.

Pioneering Spirit by Aw Tee Hong, Raffles Place, Singapore



 Struggle for Survival (1988)

This is another sculpture created by Aw Tee Hong. This is a less abstract figure of a (somewhat ancient Egyptian) ship. Both of these 2 sculptures along with Progress and Advancement were installed around the exits of Raffles Place MRT so that the passengers would be greeted by them as they leave the exits.

These 3 sculptures were installed as part of the opening of the Raffles Place MRT to public in 1988 (to be exact, 12 Dec 1987).

Struggle for Survival by Aw Tee Hong, Raffles Place, Singapore



 All the Essentially Essential (2013)

A Tan Wee Lit's winning entry for the  City Developments Limited Singapore Sculpture Award in 2007. The objects inside a frame looks like the a typical toy assembly kit that contains all the parts that one needs to assemble to make it work. This "life-kit" includes bicycle components, brief case, gym bag, picnic basket, baby stroller, computer keyboard. All the essentials of work, family, exercise and recreation that needs to be put together in the right way to create a life that works.

The empty space in the bottom left corner is reserved for a couple to complete the picture. 2 pairs of foot stands are provided for a couple to stand there for photo ops. If the person on the right is tall enough, the cap will rest on his/her snugly.

Next time you're around Raffles Place MRT, remember to climb into the space to take this essential photo (like this Vietnamese tourist couple).

All the Essentially Essential by Tan Wee Lit, Raffles Place, Singapore


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The following objects aren't on permanent display and therefore not part of this art trail, but I encountered them while walking this trail. I thought I share them with you. You really never know what you're going to see.

F1 racing car made from Lego pieces, Raffles Place, Singapore
F1 racing car made from Lego pieces.
This was on display as part of the promotion of annual F1 event in Singapore.

F1 racing car made from Lego pieces, Raffles Place, Singapore


This conclude our walk. The last exhibit located conveniently next to one of the 2 Raffles Place MRT exits. Have a safe journey home...Ciao!



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