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Art, close and personal
ART is not only found in museums and art galleries. These days, you can even find it on your doorstep, especially if you happen to live in one of the higher-end condominiums in Singapore. And some of the art is actually quite good.
At Pontiac Land's Ardmore Residence, residents are greeted at the main entrance with an impressive sculpture by avant garde Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, called My Pumpkin Exists in the Infinite - one of only two large pumpkin sculptures she has made. More popularly known for her collaborations with luxury goods brand Louis Vuitton, she believes she has now left a trace of herself at the condominium so that residents can live with her "beautiful memory".
"I heard my pumpkin is alive there. My heart is full of joy," she adds.
Over the years, Pontiac Land has commissioned artists to create specific "museum-quality" pieces that complement its portfolio of properties. Camilla Chiam, who heads group corporate communications at Pontiac Land Group, says: "Art adds an additional dimension that harmonises with the architectural style and interior design ... We believe it enriches the lives of our residents and guests, and contributes to why residents prefer our properties."
Interestingly, Pontiac Land owns all the artworks at its developments; it generally does not work with a budget when it comes to buying art, which simplifies the buying process.
The Hana condominium in Tomlinson Road, for example, features a 3m by 8m abstract painting by British artist Ian Davenport titled Colourcade.
Ms Chiam says: "We are more concerned with whether the development is the appropriate context for the art piece, as opposed to meeting a budget."
At Sky Habitat in Bishan by CapitaLand, the artworks are collectively owned by the residents and managing body. The art, chosen by the developer, generally has to have wide appeal. Resident Sue Chew could not be happier with the specially commissioned sculptures for the condominium grounds, including one called The Hummingbird by local artist Victor Tan. "I was pleasantly surprised and impressed when I saw the sculptures for the first time. I think they give the development an identity and add colour to the surroundings," she says.
Unique creative style
The Hummingbird is a figurative piece of art sculpted from stainless steel wires by the visually-impaired artist. He was also commissioned to create a sculpture representing a parent with a child called Joy for the developer's Bedok Residences.
Francis Wong Hooe Wai, chief of art management at CapitaLand, says: "We always try to support our local art community and Victor is one fine artist with a unique creative style."
Not all the artworks are by local artists. CapitaLand's recent commissions and acquisitions have included works by the Spanish artist Juan Ripolles (for Bedok Residences) and the Lebanese artist and architect Nadim Karam (for d'Leedon).
Mr Wong says: "The artworks must complement the architecture, be easy to maintain, and enhance the aesthetic value and identity of the projects."
For CapitaLand, the art it commissions directly or acquires through galleries has to be "cheerful and communicative, with themes of people and nature as they hold a wider appeal".
"Making art pieces accessible to the community is our way of promoting art appreciation and enjoyment," adds Mr Wong. By doing this, CapitaLand is using art to reach out to the communities within its developments (and beyond) to strengthen its own corporate credo, "Building People. Building Communities".
Besides holding talks for its tenants, it is hosting a larger-scale art engagement event this month called Art @ CapitaLand at the Central Public Library.
The choice of artworks for a development are sometimes chosen by the architect, as was the case at Leedon Residence by Guocoland.
SCDA's principal architect Chan Soo Khian says: "If I like an artist whom I think can complement my designs, I usually try to get them to work on some of my projects." He also believes that good art can "give great satisfaction to the collective residents, who may not otherwise be able to afford a special piece."
Residents at Leedon Residence get to enjoy the work of French sculptor Laurence Bonnel, who is represented by Galerie Belvedere in Singapore. She has created two sets of sculptures between 2.5m and 2.95m high: one is an aluminium set of seven individual pieces titled Muses, inspired by the "poetry and purity" of the architecture, and the other, a set of nine individual pieces in bronze titled Sentinels, which were conceived as "protectors" of the place and its residents.
Ms Bonnel, who visited the site before starting work on her creations, adds: "I always work according to the architectural project. The sculptures are proposed, depending of the environment. This gives me a stricter creative framework."
For Far East Organization, which markets its luxury homes under its relatively new luxury brand, Inessence, art is also an important aspect of brand building.
Shaw Lay See, its chief operating officer for property sales, says: "Integrating art with our ultra-luxury Inessence homes in Orchard Road seems natural, as our residents are used to seeing art in public and entertainment spaces around the world, and some of them are art collectors themselves."
For Inessence's Boulevard Vue at Cuscaden Walk, Cultural Medallion recipient Chong Fahcheong was commissioned to create a bronze work called Moongate II to enhance the development's design concept of "various components coming together to achieve something perfect".
Adds Ms Shaw: "Once we have identified an artist, we invite him or her to create a contemporary art piece that will complement the Inessence design concept, perspectives of the development and the space they are to work with."
At Skyline @ Orchard Boulevard, the Italian artist Michele Righetti created the 3.5m-tall Fusion, a stainless steel sculpture in the form of a continuous line that is described as revealing, "… energy, balance and sense of purpose …" Ms Shaw adds that the work also "provides a distinctive arrival experience at the property's entrance".
Taking a slightly different approach to art in condos, City Developments Ltd (CDL) has introduced art in unexpected spaces, such as the car park of The Residences at W Singapore, Sentosa Cove. Anthony Chia, the executive vice-president of projects, says that this is to "enliven" these spaces. The car park has 19 wall murals by local artists, commissioned through an art-management company. The hip development also features whimsical installations such as the pink flamingos under a purple canopy in the central plaza. "As a developer of spaces and lifestyle, we believe that art complements the built environment," says Mr Chia.
CDL says it has been commissioning art since the 1990s. But while earlier commissions may have been more themed - the more than 100 bronze animal sculptures for Savannah CondoPark come to mind - these days, the art is determinedly more au courant. This includes the glass sculpture for its soon-to-be-completed The Palette in Pasir Ris by B. Jane Cowie. Called Coral Fleur, the sculpture helps residents connect, "visually and emotionally" to their home. And because it has been positioned to be viewed from the street as well, it also will also become a landmark to be appreciated by the neighbourhood.