Golden celebration in bronze and steel

From left: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, artist James Surls and US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar at the unveiling of the sculpture Fifty Wings in the Botanic Gardens yesterday.
From left: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, artist James Surls and US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar at the unveiling of the sculpture Fifty Wings in the Botanic Gardens yesterday.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A sculpture with 50 "wings" to represent 50 years of Singapore's independence was unveiled at the Botanic Gardens yesterday in celebration of the nation's Golden Jubilee.

Titled Fifty Wings, the 3m-high bronze and stainless steel sculpture was created by American artist James Surls and donated by the retired chairman of global shipping firm BW Group, Dr Helmut Sohmen, and his wife Anna.

The sculpture, inspired by the seed of the Dipterocarp tree found in the Gardens, was unveiled at a reception hosted by the National Parks Board, the United States Embassy and Platform Projects Singapore, a non-profit group supporting contemporary art.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the Gardens, named as Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site last month, stands as an "icon of the vision" that founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had of Singapore as a garden city.

Noting that there are more than 20 donated art pieces in the Gardens, Mr Wong said of the latest addition: "It's fitting that this wonderful gift by the Sohmen family has 50 wings that represent 50 years of independence in Singapore."

US Ambassador Kirk Wagar noted that next year marks the 50th year of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the US. He said he sees the sculpture as symbolic of the intertwined relationship between the two countries.

"Our two countries, really unlike any other, share a celebration of meritocracy and equality of opportunity, where you can come from anywhere and do anything," he said."

The sculpture is installed opposite the National Orchid Garden, next to the Giant Cola tree.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Golden celebration in bronze and steel'. Print Edition | Subscribe