The white, polymarble statue of Sir Stamford Raffles in North Boat Quay appears to be "disappearing".
Since last Saturday, the landmark at the location where Raffles was believed to have first set foot on Singapore in 1819 has been partially covered in dark grey paint.
Yesterday, the Singapore Bicentennial Office (SBO) revealed that it was behind the optical illusion, which was created in collaboration with local artist Teng Kai Wei.
The installation was conjured up to usher in the Singapore Bicentennial, which marks the 200th anniversary of Raffles' landing in Singapore that is seen as a key turning point in the Republic's history.
Mr Teng covered half the statue with outdoor acrylic paint so that it blended in with OCBC Centre across the river, creating a trick-eye effect. A layer of liquid acting as a protective coating was first applied on the statue, to allow for the paint to be removed later.
As a cover story, the Singapore Tourism Board announced on Dec 7 that the statue would undergo maintenance works from Dec 10 to 28. "To facilitate the works, the statue will be hoarded up and will not be available for photo-taking," it said.
On-site work for the statue's new look began on Dec 10 and took about 21/2 weeks to complete. It was unveiled on Dec 29.
My first thought was, 'Did they remove the statue and replace it with a hologram?' It's actually quite cool.
OFFICE WORKER YEO JING YING, who has been to see the statue twice.
Mr Teng, 32, said he hoped his work would make passers-by stop, pause and reflect, as well as evoke their curiosity to find out more about the Singapore Bicentennial.
He is a familiar face in the Singapore art scene who specialises in public sculptures.
Said an SBO spokesman: "As we enter the bicentennial year, we want Singaporeans to think more deeply about our history - is our story just about one date or one man? The act of Raffles 'disappearing' is an opportunity to engage Singaporeans in an open dialogue about the many other men and women who also arrived on our shores and made significant contributions.
"Our history is a longer, 700-year story that dates back to 1299, and will be told over the bicentennial year, with many events planned, many of them by community groups with long histories."
A series of activities to mark the bicentennial will be officially launched on Jan 28 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The SBO, which is under the Prime Minister's Office, oversees the coordination of the nationwide bicentennial commemoration.
Mr Clement Loh, 57, a driver, dropped by the Raffles statue yesterday to take photos after reading about it in Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao.
He told The Straits Times: "When they told me Raffles 'disappeared', I guessed that they used this painting effect to blend the statue into the surrounding buildings.
"This is quite novel, so I'm taking photos to show my family."
Office worker Yeo Jing Ying has been to see the statue twice, saying he was intrigued when he passed it on Dec 13 and it looked green.
The 34-year-old, who returned to the site yesterday, said: "My first thought was, 'Did they remove the statue and replace it with a hologram?'It's actually quite cool."
The artwork will be removed at the end of today.