Colouring Public Spaces
Street art is more than just about making an area pretty. It has the power to bring together people in a community and strengthen relations between nations.
By Evonne Lyn Lee with additional reporting by Tracy Lee-Elrick
rt adds to the character of Singapore’s public spaces, transforming its physical landscape into galleries with an emphasis on making art more accessible and bringing it to where people work, live and play.
Public art in Singapore — seen in public spaces in the form of murals and street art installations — comprises commissioned works and murals.
Commissioned works include the bronze statue Mother And Child, depicting a mother carrying a baby, by renowned Singapore sculptor Ng Eng Teng (1934– 2001). He created three of these statues and one of them is currently at suburban Tampines Central Park.
Public murals can be found in void decks and on the facades of public housing blocks, at community clubs and residential committees.
Social Creatives is a Singapore-based non-profit social enterprise which specialises in painting murals for good causes. It engages the community in its artistic endeavours — getting residents of public housing estates, youths at risk and volunteers to paint murals in public spaces, to foster interaction. Examples are the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Geylang Home for the Aged and void decks of public housing apartments.
To date, the group has helped create more than 160 murals and engaged over 19,000 participants. It has plans to paint about 350 one-room flats of lowerincome families.
The Elephant Statue presented to Singapore by Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to commemorate his visit in 1871, is believed to be one of Singapore’s very first pieces of public art. The bronze statue originally stood in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall but was moved to the front of the Court House (later the Assembly House, and today’s Old Parliament House, also known as the Arts House) in 1919.* It is a testament to the strong relationship Singapore and Thailand enjoy.
*Source National Library Board
At the Marina Bay financial district, four artworks that will be created by a Singaporean and two Malaysian artists will be placed at Marina One, a commercial-and-residential development opening in 2017.
The curated art pieces underscore the significant ties between Singapore and Malaysia according to Kemmy Tan, COO of M+S, a joint venture between Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and Khazanah Nasional, the Malaysian government’s investment fund. M+S has also commissioned another five artworks for luxury condominium, Duo, that will also include a hotel and office block located on Fraser Street in Bugis. The Duo development is slated to open at the end of 2017.
MEANINGFUL PUBLIC ART
In 2015, in conjunction with Singapore’s jubilee celebrations, SG50, the National Arts Council has invited Singapore artists to come up with meaningful public art works in the city. The top three proposals will receive a budget of up to $400,000 each to produce their works.
DRIVING PUBLIC ART
The artistic creations of Singaporean artists Dawn Ng, Wong Lip Chin and archivist Koh Nguang How as well as Indonesian painters Maryanto and Bambang ‘Toko’ Witjaksono, liven up the façade of Gillman Barracks.
Gillman Barracks, a former British army camp built in 1926 in the Western suburbs, is Singapore’s latest contemporary arts cluster of 17 international art galleries and a Centre for Contemporary Art.
Ng’s photographic prints, Wong’s blackand- white historical images and Koh’s remodelled bus stop sculpture are part of Drive (facebook.com/gillman.barracks), a public art project running from now until January 2015. This outdoor exhibition of public artworks — from murals and photographs to sculptures and multi-media installations — features works from different art galleries and international artists.
Meanwhile, the other galleries at Gillman Barracks have ongoing exhibitions that feature a changing lineup of works every two months.
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