Horse shoe-shaped ping-pong table by SEA Games organiser similar to artwork by artist Lee Wen

It was a popular installation outside the Singapore Art Museum's annexe, SAM @ 8Q, in 2012, exhibited as part of a survey of Lee's work. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM 
It was a popular installation outside the Singapore Art Museum's annexe, SAM @ 8Q, in 2012, exhibited as part of a survey of Lee's work. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM 
Ping-Pong Go Round travelled to Art Basel Hong Kong in March 2014, where it proved popular with visitors to the art fair. -- PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE
Ping-Pong Go Round travelled to Art Basel Hong Kong in March 2014, where it proved popular with visitors to the art fair. -- PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE
Interactive art installation Ping-Pong Go Round by Singapore artist Lee Wen at the recent Art Basel in Hong Kong. -- PHOTO: ART BASEL
Interactive art installation Ping-Pong Go Round by Singapore artist Lee Wen at the recent Art Basel in Hong Kong. -- PHOTO: ART BASEL
The ping-pong table installation, located at the Sports Hub Singapore, was put up by the SEA Games organising committee. -- PHOTO: TAN PIN PIN
The ping-pong table installation, located at the Sports Hub Singapore, was put up by the SEA Games organising committee. -- PHOTO: TAN PIN PIN

An horse shoe-shaped ping-pong table located in the OCBC Square at the Sports Hub Singapore has drawn criticism for being strikingly similar to an iconic art installation by prominent Singapore artist Lee Wen.

The game table was put up by the Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) on May 31 as part of the 28th SEA Games Carnival. It recalled Mr Lee’s Ping-Pong Go Round, an installation of an unusually shaped ping pong table, to at least one viewer.Film-maker Tan Pin Pin took a photo of it and notified Mr Lee, 57, a Cultural Medallion recipient, via Facebook on June 5.

Mr Lee told the Straits Times later he was “a bit upset” not to have been informed or given credit for the idea. 

When contacted, a spokesman for the committee told The Straits Times it regretted the incident.

He said: “This (table) was an activity proposed by one of our vendors, and we were unaware of the similarity. We did not intend to infringe on any rights, and we will work an arrangement with the artist as soon as possible.”

Mr Lee said he would meet with representatives from Singsoc on June 6 to resolve the matter and welcomed their overture to set things right.

“I feel a bit better that they have asked to meet me, and decided to at least credit my work as an inspiration for their project.”

Ping-Pong Go Round was first created and performed in Melbourne in 1998 and has travelled elsewhere. It was re-enacted at the Singapore Art Museum in 2012.

Intellectual property lawyers, however, felt no copyright had been infringed.

Said Mr Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird: “Mr Lee cannot claim that copyright is infringed based on how the game of ping-pong is played on the Singsoc table, as there is no copyright protection in the concept of a game.”

Said another lawyer, Mr George Hwang: "Mr Lee’s artwork is very simple. To be honest, it is possible for someone to produce a similar table without having seen Mr Lee’s artwork.”

bang@sph.com.sgcorriet@sph.com.sg