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"Interchange" by artist couple Milenko and Delia Prvacki draws upon the cultural richness and artistic heritage of Singapore. Image: Nicholas Yong

Adventures At Home: Rediscovering Art In NEL MRT Stations

Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate the awesome artwork that graces the walls of our MRT stations? If you’re curious about what they mean, it's time to hop on board the Art in Transit (AIT) tours by Art Outreach, a non-profit arts intermediary supported by the National Arts Council.

Not only will you get to see some of Singapore's largest public art showcase, but you'll also learn about our Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) fascinating AIT programme. As of 2022, the AIT programme spans 103 stations, 107 artists and features more than 440 artworks.

The tours are part of the National Heritage Board’s 20th Singapore HeritageFest, which highlights Singapore’s rich sports and transportation history.

The AIT tour will take you on a journey through the North East Line’s (NEL) Dhoby Ghaut, Clarke Quay, Chinatown, and Outram Park stations, showcasing the site-specific artworks commissioned for each station.

The AIT programme began with the NEL in 1997, bringing captivating artworks closer to commuters and transforming train stations into places that connect the community and the arts. Fun fact: an open call for artists was held for each station, except for Little India and Chinatown, where the artwork was done by an Indian and Chinese artist, respectively.

How do these amazing artworks come into existence? LTA conducts a public call, inviting artists to submit their portfolios for review by the curators. The process is overseen by the Art Review Panel (ARP) and LTA, and encourages a wide-ranging selection of both established and upcoming artists for the AIT programme. Most of the time, the artists work closely with architects, contractors, and project teams to create the artwork for the station, resulting in stunning pieces that truly capture the spirit of Singapore and the area surrounding the station.

Here’s a preview of what you will see on the Art in Transit (AIT) tours:

"Interchange" by Milenko and Delia Prvacki. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

"Universal Language" by Sun Yu-Li. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

NE6: Dhoby Ghaut

As you make your way towards the Circle or North South Line, take a moment to appreciate the large-scale ceramic and mosaic masterpiece on your left. Titled "Interchange," this piece was created by artist couple Milenko and Delia Prvacki, and draws upon the cultural richness and artistic heritage of Singapore. “Interchange” continues at the four escalators that lead commuters towards the red line.

As you head towards the NEL platform from Plaza Singapura, keep an eye out for a vibrant mosaic wall. This stunning piece, along with more than 180 other art installations tiled onto Dhoby Ghaut’s floors and columns, is part of "Universal Language" by Sun Yu-Li. You'll notice sets of prehistoric symbols, such as hunters, fishes, and birds, that act as wayfinding icons.

"The Reflections" by Chua Ek Kay. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

Map of the Singapore River on Clarke Quay's platform floor. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

NE5: Clarke Quay

As you head up to the gantry, you'll be greeted by a stunning 60m mural. "The Reflections" by Chua Ek Kay tells the story of the Singapore River and how it has transformed the city into the vibrant place it is today. Make sure to start from the right side and follow the mural leftwards to fully appreciate the story.

The architects behind the station also got in on the artistic action. Take a look down at the platform floor and you'll see a map of the Singapore River, complete with the names of all the famous bridges. It's a clever and unique way to pay homage to one of Singapore's most iconic landmarks.

"The Phoenix's-Eye Domain" by Tan Swie Hian. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

"The Phoenix's-Eye Domain" by Tan Swie Hian. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

NE4: Chinatown

Take the exit that leads to Pagoda Street to admire the vibrant phoenix mural along the concourse wall. Created by Tan Swie Hian, "The Phoenix's-Eye Domain" is a stunning depiction of the journey, nobility, and strength of Singapore's Chinese forefathers. The artwork continues on the platform in the form of a poem written by the artist, and is presented as three sets of rhyming couplets on granite tiles.

"Commuters" by Teo Eng Seng. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

"Memories" by Wang Lu Sheng. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

"Memories" by Wang Lu Sheng. | IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

NE3: Outram Park

Noticed the human-like figures seemingly "stuck" on the walls at Outram Park MRT station? There are actually 69 surreal human forms in total, and they are part of an artwork called "Commuters" by Teo Eng Seng. This art piece aims to capture the commuters' state of mind as they journey through the station. Plus, keep an eye out for some buildings, landmarks, and objects depicted in the artwork that also serve as helpful wayfinding signs.

And if you're heading towards the new Thomson-East Coast Line, don't miss the stunning Chinese opera costume. This, and the stylised mural of a blue Chinese opera mask, are titled "Memories" by Wang Lu Sheng. The artist aims to showcase a collage of symbols related to Chinese opera, law, or medicine that represent visual memories of Outram Park.

The Art in Transit AIT tours run exclusively on the weekends of 6 and 7, and 13 and 14 May. Click here to book your spot.

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