Walking Down Marina Bay Sands’ Art Path in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands

 Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands hotel, casino and shopping complex in Marina Bay, Singapore is striking enough when viewed on its own. Look closer, and you'll find a number of public works of art organically integrated into the building's infrastructure, all viewable as part of a stroll through the Marina Bay Sands' premises.

The Singapore government offers incentives to developers who use their spaces to showcase public art. Thus Marina Bay Sands' architect Moshe Safdie searched far and wide for artists whose work could meld seamlessly with his own. All the artists (save one) worked closely with Safdie to ensure the complete integration of art and environment.

"Singapore's public art incentive program offers an extraordinary opportunity for commissioned works in which art and architecture are complementary and seamlessly integrated," Safdie explains. "Each of the works resonates in a particular way with the architecture, while presenting the artists with an extraordinary palette for their creations."

Due to the size of the Marina Bay Sands, the commissioned works of art tend to be just as majestic in scale, with renowned artists like Ned Kahn, Sol DeWitt and Antony Gormley contributing works of staggering dimensions. All told, the artwork commissioned has a combined value of $50 million.

These works of art can be viewed within an hour, as you walk through the Marina Bay Sands hotel and Shoppes grounds.

  • Most of the quotes in this and succeeding pages come from the following articles: Bloomberg.com - Las Vegas Sands Adds $50 Million Public Art to Singapore Casino; and Senatus.com - Marina Bay Art Path
  • Wikipedia - Moshe Safdie
01 of 08

Drift by Antony Gormley

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

Antony Gormley is renowned for his sculptures patterned off of the human body (see his most famous artwork, Angel of the North, installed in Tyne and Wear, England in 1998). You might think he's departed from type with his amorphous matrix Drift, which hangs over the lobby area in Tower 1.

If you did, you'd be wrong: Gormley says the body is right there amidst the angles, "you just have to look for it," as Bloomberg reports. A body-shaped space lies in the middle of the sculpture; surrounding the void are 16,138 steel rods and 8,320 steel nodes forming a tight cloud of polyhedra.

The cloud weighs almost 15 tons, measures about 130 feet long, 75 feet high and 50 feet wide, and is suspended between levels 5 and 12 of Tower 1's atrium. About 60 workers put together the sculpture in the atrium; the end result stands between worlds, as Gormley's site puts it, "a light weight structure that exists on the cusp between a drawing and a thing."

Drift was specially commissioned for the atrium by the Sands' architect Moshe Safdie; Gormley's concept was favored because it "occupied the space without filling it."

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02 of 08

Wall Drawing #917, Arcs and Circles by Sol LeWitt

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

Moshe Safdie often commissioned the late graphic artist Sol LeWitt to create artwork that complemented the former's architectural creations. After LeWitt passed away in 2007, his work for the Marina Bay Sands was continued in his absence by a team of artists from the LeWitt estate and the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

Don't let the precise abstraction fool you: LeWitt's artwork is handmade and executed only under the supervision of LeWitt-trained artists. LeWitt's work challenges preconceptions about art and authorship: his creations are classed as Conceptual Art, in which the "idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product", in LeWitt's own words. (About.com Painting - Conceptual Art)

Under such conditions, artists other than LeWitt can execute his design, but as the artwork follows the original artist's own detailed directions, even artworks executed in his absence are recognized as Sol LeWitt originals. Artworks that meet LeWitt's conditions come with a signed certificate that guarantees the work as LeWitt's own.

Two LeWitt abstract works grace the walls of the Marina Bay Sands: Wall Drawing #917, Arcs and Circles measures 14'2"x66'8", and is mounted behind the reception desk at Hotel Tower 1 (pictured above); and Wall Drawing #915, Arcs, Circle and Irregular Bands, measures 13'x55' and can be found at an underground pedestrian passageway connecting Marina Bay Sands to the Bayfront MRT station.

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03 of 08

Motion by Israel Hadany

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

For some of the artwork in the Marina Bay Sands, form follows function. Ned Kahn’s Wind Arbor (more on that later) shades the atrium and the cooling towers, even as it morphs with the wind conditions. Inside the atrium, Motion centers the Tower 1 waiting area visually, even as it provides necessary seating for guests waiting to be served.

Two glass and stone islands make up the entirety of Motion: each island is made up of “mountains” composed of plate glass sheets, cut and glued together, surrounded by “coastlines” composed of Jura beige stones. The stone doubles as seating; the islands are set some distance from each other.

The artwork creates an abstraction of weathering commonly found affecting geological formations; viewers will be struck by Motion’s evocation of nature-formed lines within the geometric space formed by the Marina Bay Sands atrium.

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04 of 08

Rising Forest (升林) by Chongbin Zheng

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

As you proceed further down the Marina Bay Sands hotel atrium, you’ll encounter the first of 83 ten-foot-high glazed stoneware pots, each one containing a live tree.

The pots are spread out over a space inside the atrium and beyond, covering a total of about 4,700 square yards. Each pot waters the trees automatically from under the floor; the trees are designed to grow over time, thus the name “Rising Forest”. In time, the artist hopes to see a canopy of foliage across the atrium.

The massive ceramic pots had to be fabricated in the Chinese town of Yixing, renowned for its ceramics since the 11th century. Even so, the pots presented a challenge to the expert potters of Yixing: the finished product weighs 1.2 metric tons, stands 10 feet tall, and could only be fired in one piece – there was no way the ceramics could be done piecemeal.

The potters of Yixing used a specially-aged clay sourced from a quarry in the Yellow Dragon Mountain. After they were molded by hand, the pots were fired in a custom-made kiln the size of a house. Each pot took about 20 days to finish, to say nothing of the time it took to ship the final product to Singapore.

  • About.com China Travel - 2 Days in Yixing
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05 of 08

James Carpenter, Blue Reflection Façade with Light Entry Passage

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

At the Casino Podium Wall, entering gamblers are greeted by a shimmering wall of blue light - James Carpenter’s Blue Reflection Façade utilizes a succession of vertical glass and metal fins, lit electric blue, to emphasize the sinuous curves of the entrance exterior and to mirror the blue sky beyond.

The appearance of the artwork changes with your perspective – the steel and glass shimmer as you walk, creating the illusion of constantly shifting light. Over 80 stainless steel fins and 200 glass fins were used to complete the artwork; the finished project is about 370 feet long and 55 feet high.

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06 of 08

Wind Arbor by Ned Kahn

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

"This work is the climate control," says Moshe Safdie of the largest of the works he commissioned from renowned sculptor of kinetic art Ned Kahn.

Wind Arbor covers the length of the hotel atrium's western façade, terminating at the air conditioning towers at the building's north end: the artwork covers the lot with over 260,000 free-swinging aluminum panels. The panels create an overall effect of a metal surface that ripples with the wind. The panels also have the side benefit of shading the hotel atrium, reducing the need for air conditioning.

The artwork is 50 feet high at the building's north end, rising to 180 feet on the other side. Overall, Wind Arbor covers over 8,100 square yards of wall area, about 5 and a half Olympic-size swimming pools' worth of space.

  • To see another work of art created by Ned Kahn, read this article: Particles in Motion - Work by Ned Kahn and Bruce Shapiro.
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07 of 08

Rain Oculus by Ned Kahn

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

Located where Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands' retail mall and the Waterfront Promenade meet, the Rain Oculus provides a double spectacle for Marina Bay Sands visitors.

Stand on the upper level, and the rain oculus looks like a bowl containing a vortex of swirling water. Go to the waterfront two levels below, and you'll see a hemispherical skylight, with water showering out of the center and light leaching through the rest.

The structure is composed of an acrylic hemisphere 72 feet in diameter, supported by a stainless steel "basket". The steel and acrylic superstructure alone weighs 90 tons, more when water swirls into the hemisphere and out the opening. The Rain Oculus is designed to hold about 200 tons of water; it's intended to catch rainwater, but on dry days, water is pumped through several nozzles located around the hemisphere.

Rain Oculus was intended by Kahn to be the canvas for the artwork, not the artwork itself. The hemisphere is designed to sculpt the artistic medium, in this case the swirling vortex of water that Moshe Safdie has jokingly referred to as a "black hole" when seen from above. Says Safdie of the sight, "It might be tempting to see what a black hole feels like and jump in."

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08 of 08

Tipping Wall by Ned Kahn

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands, used with permission.

The Tipping Wall stands at the cooling tower on the southern end of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. As with the Rain Oculus, water creates the movement within the artwork, but the energy is distributed far more widely in this artwork.

The water trickles through the Tipping Wall’s field of 7,000 free-swinging polycarbonate channels. As the water descends, the channels tip like tiny seesaws with the weight of the flow. At the bottom, a catchment recovers the water and recirculates it to the distribution trough at the top.

The Tipping Wall’s overall effect is a flurry of movement, that of the water and of the channels tipping as the water ebbs and flows. “As you stand waiting for a taxi, you’ll be entertained,” says Moshe Safdie.

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