Singapore Government Press Release
Media Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
MITA Building, 140 Hill Street, 2nd Storey, Singapore 179369
SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, MR MAH BOW TAN, AT THE OPENING OF THE SCULPTURES EXHIBITION ‘REBORN, REJOICE, REJUVENATE’, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE LAUNCH OF THE PUBLIC SCULPTURES MASTERPLAN 2002, ON FRIDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 2002, 7.00 PM AT ONE FULLERTON.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
A week ago, Senior Minister unveiled the Merlion at this location. We needed to find a new place for the Merlion as its original location at the mouth of the Singapore River had been eclipsed by the new bridge across Singapore River. The Merlion’s new home took into account the dynamic changes that the city had undergone, and the vision of a new Downtown wrapped around the Marina Bay. The new Merlion Park illustrates the need for a city to reinvent itself to meet new aspirations and to achieve the vision of transforming Singapore into a global city of distinction.
The city does not remain static. For instance, the very ground that we are standing on did not exist a few years ago. In fact, the southern shoreline of Singapore used to follow Telok Ayer Street.
Our city has since grown. With reclamation, the CBD expanded into today’s Cecil Street, Robinson Road and Shenton Way.
For those of us who can recall, the activity center along the waterfront was the Esplanade Park – where families enjoyed satay at the former Satay Club, couples strolled along Queen Elizabeth Walk and anglers tried their luck along the waterfront. During special celebrations, the Padang and the promenade area would be especially packed as everyone would gather here to watch fireworks light up the night sky.
To serve Singapore’s commercial, residential and recreational needs in the new millennium, we have since pushed our shoreline outwards towards Marina South. We have created the beautiful Marina Bay around which exciting new buildings of the future New Downtown would be developed. Even as the shoreline changes and our city grows, we want to bring back the vibrancy of the old days. In the plan for the new Downtown, the Marina Bay will be the focus of major celebrations and national events.
This vision is slowly becoming reality. Next month, the Esplanade -Theatres on the Bay, boasting state-of-the-art facilities, will open its doors. Together with the new Merlion Park, Fullerton Hotel and One Fullerton, this area now features a cluster of premier entertainment and dining facilities. With construction underway for the first sale sites of the new Downtown, the NTUC headquarters and the likely addition of a new business and financial centre, the entire Marina Bay will be transformed into a lively, bustling hub of commercial and recreational activity.
Even as we develop the `brick and mortar’ hardware aspects of the city, we are mindful of the need to complement this with `software’, so as to create a culturally vibrant city. Arts add character and renewed vigour to a city. It brings creative buzz, makes our city more attractive and provides an avenue for us to relax and enjoy ourselves.
Over the years, we have established a repertoire of popular Arts events such as the Singapore Arts Festival. Fort Canning Park hosts the World of Music And Dance (WOMAD) festival and ‘Ballet under the Stars’. Some performances of the Singapore Arts Festival are staged at MRT stations. The SSO performs at regional parks like Tampines Park to bring arts into the heartlands.
Besides performance arts like dance and drama, sculpture is another art form that is making its presence felt in Singapore. Sculptures add a creative dimension to our city’s streetscape. A sculpture can become a city’s landmark. Mention New York, and we visualize the Statue of Liberty, or the charging bull at Wall Street. And of course, we have our own Merlion, which has become an icon of Singapore.
Sculptures can also tell a story. Recently, the People of the River series of sculptures was launched along the banks of the Singapore River. Colourful river scenes of the past have been re-enacted through the installation of sculptures like "First Generation" and "The River Merchants". These sculptures are not only landmarks along Singapore River, but remind us of Singapore’s humble beginnings.
Sculpture Square at Bencoolen Street was established as a permanent venue for artists to showcase three-dimensional works. It is the brainchild of local sculptor Sun Yu Li whose works are also on display here tonight.
We should do more to make sculptures readily accessible to the public. This was why the Ministry of National Development set up the Public Sculptures Committee to encourage sculpture donations for our public parks, sidewalks, and plazas.
Working with the Public Sculptures Committee, the URA has drawn up a Public Sculptures Master Plan which identifies landmark sites and areas to guide the location of public sculptures. The Plan highlights three parks, four walking routes and five strategic locations where sculptures could be encouraged. These areas are along prominent activity corridors like Orchard Road and Singapore River.
Introducing public art to the city in the form of sculptures really requires a public-private partnership. The government basically sets out the framework to facilitate the community’s involvement. Complementing the Public Sculptures Master Plan is an enhanced tax exemption scheme. Previously, donors of public sculptures would be granted tax exemptions up to the appraised value of the sculpture under the Public Sculptures Donation Scheme. However, sculpture donations made after January 2002 can now benefit from tax exemptions of up to double the appraised value of the sculpture.
The Public Sculptures Master plan can only become a reality with the participation of the private sector – individuals, interested groups and corporations. A public sculpture is a meaningful gift to the community and I would like to encourage more individuals and corporations to play an active role to make our city culturally richer.
I am therefore very pleased to be here this evening to open this sculpture exhibition. It is heartening to see the private sector taking the initiative to bring sculptures to the people through an exhibition like this. To underscore the close private – partnership which is needed to bring public sculptures to the city, we have taken the opportunity to unveil the URA’s Public Sculptures Master Plan at this evening’s sculpture exhibition. I invite everyone here to view the exhibition panels and to find out more about it.
The move of the Merlion sculpture to its new home here at the Marina Bayfront epitomizes the spirit of change and continuity in the making of modern Singapore.
One Fullerton, with its restaurants and cafes has become an `in’ place, frequented by many. It is good to see the promenade being used as an exhibition space for works by renowned foreign and local sculptors Yuyu Yang, Arthur Yang, Cheung Yee, Sun Yu Li and Baet Yeok Kuan. With the new Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, and as the New Downtown takes shape, I am confident the entire Marina Bay area, in time, will become the throbbing pulse and focal point of our city.