SINGAPORE - Tigers once roamed Singapore and they are set to do so again with a new islandwide art exhibition by World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore (WWF-Singapore).
The AR-mazing Tiger Trail features 33 life-size tiger sculptures at 23 locations, including Gardens by the Bay and National Gallery Singapore, until April 9.
Scanning the QR code on the base of each sculpture will unlock tiger-themed quizzes and augmented-reality (AR) filters for Instagram.
WWF-Singapore hopes these colourful animal sculptures will start a conversation among Singaporeans about tiger conservation and environmental issues such as deforestation, says its chief executive officer R. Raghunathan.
He notes that there are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left on the planetand they are under major threat in South-east Asia.
Tigers have already vanished from the forests of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in the last 25 years, and Malaysia might very well follow next.
"Singapore has a historic connection with tigers, having lost its last tiger within the last 100 years," he points out.
The Tiger Trail project was conceived some four years ago, but holding it this year was very much a strategic decision. He says: "The Year of the Tiger in 2022 is a once-in-a-12-year opportunity to continuously help secure a future for tigers and the vast wild spaces they inhabit - for the benefit of wildlife, people and our climate."
The sculptures were designed by artists and art collectives from around the world, including Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and Singapore's Yip Yew Chong and Neelanjana Bhattacharya.
Each tiger uses the same base frame of metal and fibreglass, with the shape based on a real Bengal tiger called King. But the artists had carte blanche in designing the surfaces.
Mural painter Yip, 53, titled his contribution Half-Submerged Tiger - and indeed, the creature seems to be either swimming through the waters of Singapore or struggling amid rising sea levels.
Bhattacharya, a ceramics artist who signs her work as Poppins, painted her version to replicate the look and feel of black clay and porcelain.
Up close, her contribution - named Tiger Lily - is strikingly textural, painted black with silver tiger lilies and dotted with orange ceramic butterflies.
"When I started painting Tiger Lily, it felt incomplete and lifeless. But my hand reached for the soil Tiger Lily was standing on, and I mixed it into the paint. And just like that, it felt like she now had a soul - like nature was creating her and I was just the medium. As an artist and a person, it was the most magical experience I have had," says Bhattacharya, 36.
Mr Chris Westbrook, curator and creative director of the Tiger Trail, says the response from the local art community here was huge. "Each unique artwork celebrates the majesty, beauty and environmental importance of the tiger," he adds.
There are 11 made-in-Singapore tigers, some of which were displayed in Chinatown during Chinese New Year.
Mr Westbrook says getting the rest of the tigers to Singapore in the midst of global logistics snarls was no small feat.
"Due to the pandemic, the timing was delayed, without any guarantee the sculptures would arrive on schedule. The last tiger sculpture to arrive in Singapore was cleared for delivery only the night before the launch (at Gardens by the Bay on Feb 26)."
As part of the trail, WWF-Singapore is organising a series of activities, including paid trail tours through the Civic District and Kampong Glam and upcycling workshops.
A portion of proceeds from the ticket prices will be channelled to tiger conservation work in South-east Asia, where tigers are most at risk. Initiatives include working with local communities in South-east Asia and elsewhere to protect forest ecosystems and support anti-poaching patrols.
Singaporeans can also purchase Tiger Trail merchandise on WWF-Singapore's online shop, such as tiger pins and tote bags designed by local comic artist Sonny Liew.
There is also a chance to take one of the sculptures home. WWF-Singapore and Sotheby's will be holding an online auction between April 12 and 26, offering international collectors the opportunity to bid for one of these unusual works of art.
WWF-Singapore AR-mazing Tiger Trail
Where: Various locations around Singapore
When: Until April 9
Info: WWF website