Cat immortalised in sculpture at museum

The "ACM cat" sculpture on the steps of the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street. It was made by sculptor Chern Lian Shan in memory of a cat that used to show up on the building's steps almost daily.
The "ACM cat" sculpture on the steps of the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street. It was made by sculptor Chern Lian Shan in memory of a cat that used to show up on the building's steps almost daily.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Reader Maisarah Abu Samah wrote in to ask about a cat sculpture found on the steps of the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street, curious about why it was called the "ACM cat" in an accompanying plaque. Arts correspondent Huang Lijie spoke with the museum to uncover the story behind the sculpture.

The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) occupied the premises of the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street from 1997 to 2005.

ACM founding director Kenson Kwok remembers that a tomcat would show up on the building's steps almost every day.

In a neighbourhood of shophouses, it was anyone's guess where the feline came from.

Its calm demeanour charmed everyone who came across it, including Mr Kwok, who was not too fond of cats.

While the cat made itself at home on the steps of the museum, it never tried to enter the building.

Mr Kwok recalls that he once had the idea of taking the cat into the museum - when it was hosting the 1999 exhibition, Eternal Egypt: Treasures From The British Museum - to see a cat mummy on display.

In fact, a curator tried to take the cat into the museum, but it refused to go any farther than the door. Till today, Mr Kwok believes the cat smelled a rat and did not want any part of it.

Just as the cat mysteriously appeared at the museum, it stopped showing up one day. No one knows what happened to it.

The sculpture, in memory of the feline - dubbed the "ACM cat" - was made by sculptor Chern Lian Shan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Cat immortalised in sculpture at museum'. Print Edition | Subscribe