The cover of 'CapitaLand: The Art of Building Communities'
The cover of ‘CapitaLand: The Art of Building Communities’

Throughout history, art has always been an integral part of buildings. Greek temples, Roman villas, Gothic cathedrals, Moghul palaces and the abodes of Chinese scholars with walled gardens are just some examples of such fine integration. The art pieces — be they sculptures, murals, mosaics, stained glass, paintings or calligraphy — add beauty to architecture, itself a form of visual arts, sometimes conveying intriguing layers of symbolic meaning.

An Appreciator of Art

CapitaLand sees the importance of art in its development projects, and this goes back to the days before the company was born out of a merger of two entities: Pidemco Land and DBS Land. We installed Juan Ripollés’ Sun Woman at Orchard Point and James Butler’s figures in the Avalon condominium, just to name a few, and developed Raffles City Singapore, which was designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner I. M. Pei. Pidemco Land and DBS Land also acquired artworks with an emphasis on Singapore artists for their respective offices, bringing art close to their staff. Some of these artists have since been conferred with accolades such as the prestigious Cultural Medallion, a Singapore cultural award to celebrate artistic excellence.

The first work of impact to the public after the birth of CapitaLand in 2000 was Han Sai Por’s large-scale installation Shimmering Pearls located at the plaza in front of Capital Tower. Combining static glass globes and stone drums with dancing water, this unique work has delighted many passers-by with its vibrant colours and graceful movement.

A Stage for Life through Art

Fifteen years have passed and the installation has long since become a landmark of the area. CapitaLand, too, has gained prominence: it now operates in more than 20 countries globally and is one of Asia’s largest real estate developers. In Singapore, just as in other parts of the world, CapitaLand’s properties — integrated developments, shopping malls, serviced residences, offices and homes — have touched the lives of people in many ways, with specially chosen art pieces for their spontaneous enjoyment. Our buildings are where the communities live, grow and fulfill their dreams, the right stage for life’s most memorable movements. It is the right stage too for the artist community to showcase their creativity.

You get to enjoy art right at our properties or in the public areas of our very own office called CapitaHub at Capital Tower, if you happen to visit us. Most of the works are sculptures and paintings, but there are also ceramics, calligraphy and limited edition prints. Just like our geographical footprint, these works are by artists from many countries. Some of them are well-known, others may one day become famous. Regardless, we seek to create something extraordinary with these artists.

The Value of Art

CapitaLand curates its art pieces with the dedication of a museum, but our approach to acquiring them differs. First, a lot of our works are commissioned because they have to suit the particular site that they will eventually be displayed at. Second, we have a set of acquisition criteria: artworks must be joyful and easily understood by the public. Third, almost none of our art pieces are kept in storage. As each art piece is to be enjoyed and admired, each has a special place in our properties, often part of the art programme of a property, giving it a special quality.

Bringing Art to the People

The acquisition and display of art pieces are two important aspects of CapitaLand’s art management. The others are the maintenance and promotion of art pieces. The Art Management Unit, formed in April 2012, works very closely with other corporate departments, as well as the design management, project management, operation and communication departments of the business units, on all aspects of art management for the company.

It is not uncommon to hear people say that art is ‘atas’ (a Singapore colloquial term meaning ‘high-class’) and only certain people can appreciate it. But art is for everybody and the story of Art @ CapitaLand is not only about acquiring and displaying art pieces to bring joy to the people, but also about ‘Building People, Building Communities.’.

The Art of Building Communities

Since 2006, we have started art appreciation lunch talks for our staff and now these talks have been extended to our tenants. We also offer Art Management, Art Appreciation and Architecture Appreciation courses internally at our very own CapitaLand Institute of Business and Management (CLIMB). On a lighter vein, we run regular art jamming sessions in the evening and organise occasional weekend family art tours for our staff.

In addition, we have been reaching out to online communities and friends around the world through this Art @ CapitaLand series. Each article features an art piece (or a series of art pieces) in CapitaLand, its concept, style, how it was made, its artist, and other interesting nuggets of information related to it. Each month, Inside Different Geographies has a theme and it is amazing that we are usually able to find a piece of artwork that matches the theme. These articles help readers understand and enjoy each art piece better, and 28 of them have been compiled in a new book titled ‘CapitaLand: The Art of Building Communities’ which will be launched this month at the official opening of CapitaGreen, our newest office development in Singapore which houses several beautiful sculptures.

The homes of these pieces can be the outstanding works of architecture by world-renowned architects such as Pritzker Architecture Prize winners Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito and I. M. Pei, and President’s Design Award Singapore recipients such as Kerry Hill, Mok Wei Wei, RSP and WOHA. They can also be historically significant pieces of architecture such as the former AIA building (now Ascott Raffles Place Singapore), once the tallest building on the waterfront of Singapore, and designed by Singapore pioneer architect Ng Keng Siang.

The theme of nature and people strongly characterises our art pieces. There is an emphasis on sculptures and paintings, and we have works by internationally renowned artists such as Olafur Eliasson from Denmark, Antony Gormley from Britain, Han Meilin from China, Ju Ming from Taiwan, Hiroshi Senju from Japan, and Frank Stella from USA; we also have works by local artists such as Cultural Medallion recipients Ang Ah Tee, Chua Ek Kay, Chong Fah Cheong, Goh Beng Kwan, Han Sai Por, Iskandar Jalil, Lim Tze Ping, Ong Kim Seng, Milenko Prvacki, Tan Choh Tee, Tan Swie Hian and Thomas Yeo, among those of many other fine artists.

We hope that you can visit CapitaLand properties and appreciate the art pieces ‘live’ — yes, art pieces are best appreciated up close and not just in articles and photographs, for only then will you be able to sense their scale, feel their texture and see them in their true form and colour. In addition, you will also see how the works relate to their surroundings and how people might react to them and interact with them. Best of all, you can personally interact with them and enjoy them. Indeed, the purpose of our having art pieces at our properties is in allowing you — our stakeholders from all walks of life — to have endless possibilities to construct your own moments around them, moments that you will cherish in life. Art @ CapitaLand is about bringing the joy of art to the community.

Get a free copy of the limited edition book ‘CapitaLand: The Art of Building Communities’ by joining our community engagement activities. Click here to register for our Art @ CapitaLand talk at NLB’s Central Public Library on 12 September 2015.

This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai