Singapore’s free outdoor art trails offer sculptures, murals and more

SINGAPORE – Art in outdoor places can liven up the space, add to a sense of place and engage local communities. It can also offer curious onlookers experiences they might otherwise never have.

To reach out to more people, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) launched two new outdoor art trails in April as part of an initiative to support artistic practice in public spaces.

SAM’s deputy director (collections and public art) Ong Puay Khim, 44, says that through its outreach and engagement efforts, it found that some visitors to these outdoor artworks had never visited any bricks-and-mortar art museums.

“The public artworks broadened their understanding of art and piqued their interest in visiting SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark to learn more,” she adds.

One of the art trails is in the Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood, where SAM has been since January 2022. It features site-specific works by six artists in locations like Duxton Plain Park and Everton Park.

The second art trail takes people to less-visited areas of the island to see works by three artists. Two artworks are located off the Rail Corridor near Commonwealth Drive and Wessex Estate, and the third is at Kampong Bahru Bus Terminal.  

But you need not put on your trekking shoes to see art in Singapore. 

Earlier in August, the Civic District Alliance (CDA), an alliance of museums and arts institutions in the city (comprising Asian Civilisations Museum, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, National Gallery Singapore, The Arts House and Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall) launched its first public art initiative.

Called Benchmarks, six site-specific art benches by artists are located around the Civic District, including Esplanade Park Playground, Queen Elizabeth Walk and along the Singapore River.

A spokesman for the CDA explains that each bench reflects the artist’s response to its location and takes into account the district’s surroundings.

They can be seen as “unconventional urban interventions to rethink and reimagine the diverse cultural and historical significance of each site and cultural institution,” he adds.

At Pasir Ris Park, National Parks Board (NParks) partnered the Sculpture Society (Singapore) to stage an outdoor exhibition of wood sculptures carved from recycled felled wood supplied by NParks.

For 2023’s edition, there are 29 wood sculptures by artists including Cultural Medallion recipient Chong Fah Cheong, Tang Da Wu and Yeo Chee Keong.

This exhibition, which is exposed to the elements, could not be replicated in a museum.

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