A Walk to Remember — Art in the CBD

As we approach the end of yet another year, we’re taking the time to slow down and appreciate the little things around us, like public art. Join us as we walk you through some of our favourite pieces that can be found in the CBD. 

And just like that, we’re almost at the end of another year. For most of us, it might feel like 2022 flew right by, with work, life, travel, and everything in between back in full swing. But before we ring in the festive season or welcome the new year just up ahead, we’d like to invite you to slow down, breathe, and appreciate the smaller things in life.

Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the daily grind and routines that we have in place that we miss what’s around us, like the public artworks peppered around the CBD.

You might have noticed a couple of the more prominent ones, like David Gerstein’s Momentum—a looming red Christmas tree-like tower of colourful human-shaped figures—at 2 Finlayson Green, or the iconic Bird by Fernando Botero at Six Battery Road, but did you know that there are over 30 public art pieces in just the CBD alone?

Here, we take you on a walking trail from the Singapore River to Telok Ayer to Tanjong Pagar to explore some of our favourites found along the streets of the CBD. From paintings to sculptures, and even to interactive pieces, we cover it all in this little adventure on foot—read on for more.

(L to R) Waterfall 2009, 2010, and 2011 by Hiroshi Senju, painted with natural pigments on paper. Images courtesy of CapitaLand.

Waterfall 2009, 2010, and 2011 by Hiroshi Senju — Six Battery Road

Widely known for his large-scale paintings of waterfalls and cliffs, the Japanese-born, New York-based painter Hiroshi Senju typically uses traditional Japanese painting techniques in his works, three of which are on display at Level 1 of Six Battery Road.

As with many of his other works, these three paintings were created using natural mineral pigments on rice paper, all of which were crafted by Hiroshi himself. These pigments were turned into paint, which were poured onto and trickled down the length of the paper to create the impression of a vertically flowing stream of water.

At the base of the painting, Hiroshi creates a misty effect, almost as if the waters are crashing into the pools below, by airbrushing a light coat of paint at the bottom half of the waterfalls.

Proliferating Immense Life — Sunrise and Sunset, A Whole Year per Year by TeamLAB. Image courtesy of TeamLAB.

Proliferating Immense Life — Sunrise and Sunset, A Whole Year per Year by TeamLAB — CapitaSpring

Known for their massive interactive digital artworks, the international art collective TeamLAB was commissioned to create a permanent public installation at the lobby of CapitaSpring.

18m tall and consisting of 2,160 LED screens, the world of the artwork changes in real time—as the sun rises and sets, the artwork grows brighter and darker accordingly, and as people come and go, the flowers displayed on the screen grow, bloom, and scatter, and even change with the seasons.

This piece, like all of their other works exhibited around the world, seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, and the natural world, and ultimately aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world, and new forms of perception.

above below beneath above by Olafur Eliasson, made out of steel with paint, stainless steel, and coloured glass. Image courtesy of Olafur Eliasson.

above below beneath above by Olafur Eliasson — CapitaGreen

This one might not be as obvious as the other artworks mentioned, but Olafur Eliasson’s piece, above below beneath above, was actually produced specifically for Japanese architect Toyo Ito’s CapitaGreen.

In this piece, which is on display at Level 1 of the building, 16 geometric crystal-like lamps are scattered across 56 twisted steel columns that reach from ground to ceiling, almost as if they’re part of the building’s structural elements.

This piece, which is both subtle yet grand at the same time, underscores the botanical themes and ecological principles central to the building’s design by conjuring images of a system of plant roots reaching up from the ground into the belly of the building.

Bronze sculptures at Telok Ayer Green, Lim Leong Seng.

Bronze Sculptures, Lim Leong Seng — Telok Ayer Green

In the middle of Telok Ayer Street sits a small green space known as Telok Ayer Green. This is typically where office workers and passers-by stop for a breath of fresh air, but it's also where, you’ll find a set of three bronze sculptures offering a glimpse into life in olden -day Singapore.

The first of these sculptures depicts a sampan or traditional wooden boat commonly used to transport goods across smaller bodies of water in the past. The second depicts an Indian milk trader selling goods to a customer, while the third depicts a Chinese lantern procession.

A portion of the Thian Hock Keng Mural by Yip Yew Chong.

Thian Hock Keng Mural by Yip Yew Chong — Thian Hock Keng Temple

Just a few steps from Telok Ayer Green sits the Thian Hock Keng temple, and stretching across the facade of the temple is the work of local artist Yip Yew Chong. The 40m-long mural commissioned by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan depicts the lives of Singapore’s early Hokkien settlers, whose hard work and sacrifices greatly shaped the Singapore that we know today.

As an artist, Yew Chong explores a variety of visual mediums like sketches, digital illustrations, and photography, but by far, his most prolific works are his murals, many of which can be found scattered across the walls of Singapore.

In many of his works, Yew Chong focuses on telling intricate stories from his childhood, while also weaving in scenes from the present time in a lighthearted manner. In the Thian Hock Keng Mural, this can be seen through the scenes of old shophouses and coolies juxtaposed with the modern-day Singapore skyline.

Samsui Women by Liu Jilin, sculpted out of granite.

Samsui Women by Liu Jilin — Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Building

Standing tall outside the URA building, across the street from the bustling Maxwell Food Centre, are three granite samsui women sculpted by the Chinese artist Liu Jilin.

Having graduated from the Sculpture Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1961 in Beijing, China, Jilin is known for his sculptural works, most of which can be found in China.

In this particular piece, he pays tribute to the female labourers who donned the iconic red headscarves and came from China to help build Singapore up in the early sixties.

As you can see, art is truly all around us. Just by taking a stroll down the CBD, we’re able to explore so many different forms of public art. Now that we’ve taken you through some of our favourites, we hope you’re inspired to slow down, go wherever your feet may take you, and discover more of the public art pieces that can be found in the area. You’d be surprised at what you can find once you start looking.

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