Dinosaur enthusiasts turn up in full force to view T-Rex skeleton in Singapore

Published Fri, Oct 28, 2022 · 07:49 PM

AT 8am on Friday (Oct 28), Jim Xianyu patiently waited outside Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall (VCH) to catch a glimpse of a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex (T-Rex) skeleton, two hours before the display was open to the public.

“I tried to reserve a ticket online but wasn’t able to, so I came very early to get a spot, just in case there is a long queue,” said Xianyu, 45, who is self-employed.

He was one of many dinosaur enthusiasts - from children to retirees - who got to see Shen the T-Rex in the flesh, or rather bones, at VCH on Friday.

The 12.2m-long skeleton, which was discovered in Montana in the United States, is on public display at VCH’s atrium from 10am to 6pm between Friday and Sunday, before it goes under the hammer on Nov 30 in Hong Kong.

Shen, which means “god-like” in Chinese, is the first T-Rex to be auctioned in Asia, and its estimated value is between US$15 million (S$21 million) and US$25 million.

Just before 10am, when the venue opened, there was a long line outside the designated queueing area at The Arts House at the Old Parliament next door.

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By 1pm, VCH’s atrium was filled with around 50 awestruck visitors, comprising families, teenagers, seniors and tourists. They circled the fossil, cameras in hand, taking in the dinosaur’s ferocious stance and serrated teeth.

Shen’s public display was organised by auction house Christie’s Hong Kong, and the predator will headline its 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong in November.

The other items to be auctioned - from luxury goods to artwork - will also be showcased in The Arts House this weekend.

In 2020, 79 T-Rex bones were unEarthed on remote, fossil-rich land in Montana. The skeleton, which was named Shen, was later assembled with additional casts, since a whole T-Rex has about 380 bones.

Many of the visitors on Friday were fans of the Jurassic Park films and had a fascination for dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures since they were children.

Life sciences undergraduate Timothy Leong, 24, who has been interested in dinosaurs since he was three, said: “I like to look at the intricacies of what makes a T-Rex unique, like the way its skull is shaped and its tooth structure. I’ve read about it in books, but it’s fascinating to see it up close.”

Leong was accompanied by his mother, Mona Leong, 53, who said seeing the T-Rex brought back memories of her showing her son different species of dinosaurs when he was young.

While the crowd thinned out in the afternoon, Christie’s is gearing up for a busy Friday evening and weekend at VCH. There is a walk-in line outside The Arts House for those who cannot secure a visiting slot online.

The auctioning of rare fossils has historically been contentious because wealthy private collectors can outbid museums that showcase such key relics of natural history. Palaeontologists worry that if collectors buy a dinosaur fossil, it will no longer be accessible to the public or scientists.

Visitors said they hope Shen will end up in a museum or public institution in Asia.

Leong said: “Fossils are so rare, especially this one, as it is so big and relatively complete.”

He added that palaeontologists should have access to Shen for research and further the understanding of the T-Rex species.

Former lawyer Michelle Lo, who is in her 40s and follows art auctions, said: “If (Shen goes to) a private collector, we should encourage him or her to be a little bit more philanthropic and think about the educational aspects. The collector can loan it to museums. But obviously, the collector will still be considered the owner.” THE STRAITS TIMES

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