The Merlion Sculptor

We’ve seen it on postcards, T-shirts, and chocolates, but who sculpted the original Merlion?

The Merlion was created in 1964 as a logo for the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board by Fraser-Brunner, who was a curator at the now-demolished Van Kleef Aquarium. The symbol was first used as the company logo from 1980 to 1997, and at the same time, the board was changed to Singapore Tourism Board. The Merlion was designed as a half-lion, half-fish creature, and it represented Singapore’s early history as a port city and Sang Nila Utama’s lion sighting in the Sejarah Melayu.

The Merlion’s original location was not next to One Fullerton. It was relocated from the Singapore River’s mouth at a distance of 120 meters. The Merlion was moved from its position on the Singapore River to its current location after the completion of the Esplanade Bridge in 1997.

Relocation of Merlion. Image Source (Antara Koh)
Merlion at original location 1987. Image Source (Remember Singapore)
The Merlion was unveiled on 15 Sept 1972 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the mouth of the Singapore River. Image Source (Pinterest)

The Merlion, which is regarded as an overworked tourism icon by many Singaporeans, was carved by the hands of a pioneering sculptor. The Merlion was sculpted by Lim Nang Seng, a well-known artist who had previously won several national art design competitions.

He spent years on the art project, which was about 70 tonnes and 8 meters tall. The torso was composed of cement fondue with ceramic plate skin, red teacup eyes, and other elements. The Merlion was erected in the Singapore River at its mouth on 15 September 1972, with the Anderson Bridge as a background.

Merlion. Sculpted by Lim Nang Seng in Sept, 1972. Image source (PBase.com)
The Merlion. Image Source (PS Media Asia)
Dancing Girl | The concrete sculpture by Lim Nang Seng. Image Source (Flickr)

Lim Nang Seng, an artist who kept a low profile, designed Singapore’s first one-cent coin in the Marine Series in 1967. The logo was a high-rise public housing block with a fountain in front and clouds in the background. He also installed the first public art at Tiong Bahru Estate, which was created by him. He created a huge work of art called the Dancing Girl at Seng Poh Garden, which is still visible today.

The Merlion has been called everything from a tourist icon to a souvenir spinner. It’s time for us to regard the Merlion as our own work of art.

The Merlion today, a legacy of sculptor Lim Nang Seng.

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