Whether you’re an art junkie on a budget or are just looking to get around town and connect with your surroundings while learning more about Singapore‘s art scene, these iconic sculptures are the way to go. From unusual to playful, make it a fun day out with your family, and don’t forget to bring along your camera for some shots for the ‘gram.
1. The River Merchants, 2003
Artist: Aw Tee Hong
Location: Singapore River, in front of Maybank Tower
This bronze sculpture depicts a quintessential scene from the early days of entrepôt trade in Singapore. Here, prominent Scottish merchant Alexander Laurie Johnston mediates between a Chinese trader and a Malay chief, while coolies load sacks onto a bullock cart (not pictured).
2. Progress & Advancement, 1988
Artist: Yang Ying Feng
Location: Raffles Place
This 4m-tall behemoth (which tips the scales at a whopping nine metric tonnes) is a stylised representation of Singapore’s Central Business District, celebrating the advancement of the city’s financial sector.
3. First Generation, 2000
Artist: Chong Fah Cheong
Location: Near Cavanagh Bridge, in front of The Fullerton Hotel
Created as part of a series, this playful installation depicts five boys jumping into the Singapore River. It represents Singapore’s first-generation immigrants and the pivotal role that the river played in their lives as a source of fun and entertainment.
4. Jelly Baby Family, 2012
Artist: Mauro Perucchetti
Location: Plaza Singapura
Reminiscent of oversized gummy bears, these quirky, colourful characters depict a childlike innocence. The artist sees them as an embodiment of the preciousness of family unity and the multiculturalism of modern society.
5. From Chettiars to Financiers, 2002
Artist: Chern Lian Shan
Location: Singapore River, near the Asian Civilisations Museum
This sculpture embodies the various financial institutions of olden-day Singapore. Financial business set up their offices near the Singapore River to be close to the area’s many trading houses. In this sculpture, the figure seated at the low desk represents a South Indian chettiar (moneylender), while the second figure in the middle portrays a Chinese clerk. The figure on the right, in the tailored jacket, depicts a trader.
6. Bird, 1990
Artist: Fernando Botero
Location: UOB Plaza
Undoubtedly one of the most renowned public art installations in Singapore, the rotund, squat and oversized Bird by the Colombian artist represents the joy of living and the power of optimism.
7. The Rising Moon, 2015
Artists: Han Sai Por and Kum Chee Kiong
Location: Esplanade Park
This granite and steel edifice is an abstract representation of Singapore’s national symbols – the five stars and the crescent moon – as well as a meditation on nationhood. It was commissioned to commemorate Singapore’s Jubilee Celebrations.
8. 24 Hours in Singapore, 2015
Artist: Baet Yeok Kuan
Location: Asian Civilisations Museum
At first glance, these appear to be random stainless-steel spheres. Upon closer inspection however, you’ll find that they function as an auditory time capsule. They emit audio recordings of everyday life in Singapore – from blaring traffic in the heartlands to spirited chatter in wet markets.
9. Homage to Newton, 1985
Artist: Salvador Dali
Location: UOB Plaza
This abstract bronze sculpture by the world-renowned Spanish Surrealist is, as its name suggests, a tribute to Sir Isaac Newton. The ball in the middle of the figure’s torso purportedly represents a falling apple, alluding to Newton’s discovery of gravity. The bronze figure also symbolises having an ‘open-heartedness’ and an ‘open-mind’.
10. Dual Universe, 1994
Artist: Charles O. Perry
Location: Singapore Land Tower
Resembling two intertwined figure eights, this abstract sculpture doesn’t have any literal meaning; rather, it is an organic result of Perry’s interpretation of mathematics and art.
11. Planet, 2008
Artist: Marc Quinn
Location: The Meadow in Gardens by the Bay
Also known as the “floating baby” , this eye-catching painted bronze sculpture measures some 9 metres long is 3 metres tall. It is an oversized reproduction of the British artist’s own son, Lucas, as a baby. Donated to the Gardens in 2013, the weight of the sculpture is masterfully balanced on the infant’s right hand, creating the illusion that it is floating in the air.
Photography by Kamal Tung unless otherwise stated
Do remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
This article was originally published on 31 May 2019 and updated on 17 July 2021.