Friday, March 11, 2011

Art Science Museum @ Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay district of Singapore (heart of the downtown) has had construction ongoing since we arrived last year.  Several projects have completed, with several more still in progress.  The overall  area development is the flagship project of Singapore, and when completed will rival or exceed the spectacular views of The Bund in Shanghai.
The Marina Bay Sands integrated resort/casino opened last year, and in February, the Art & Science Museum attached to this complex opened.  This past weekend we went to check it out.  It, like many museums, is not a cheap date--  S$30.00 for adults for entry.  (I compare this with the US$26.00 and US$14.00 parking it cost to enter the newly rebuilt California Academy of Sciences Museum in San Francisco that we recently visited--  also a spendy day out).

Art Science Museum--  Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
The building housing the museum is unique--  it is shaped like a lotus flower, and sits on the edge of the bay.  The building has four floors--  the top floor gallery is dedicated to art and design--  with a large display on the design concepts that went into the museum building.
During our visit we toured three exhibits (not including the fourth floor art/design exhibit).
Shipwrecked:  Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds
This exhibit was fabulous, featuring many artifacts, primarily pottery, recovered from a ninth century ship that sank near the Indonesian island of Gelitung.  The ship was Arab, and its discovery in 1998 was the first proof that Arab sea traders ventured as far as East Asia as early as the Tang Dynasty.  The pottery came mostly from central China (Xi'an), where a city of 1 million people mass produced goods, including pottery, for trade.  Thousands of pieces of pottery, and some gold and silver items were found in the wreck.
Traveling The Silk Road:  Ancient Pathway to the Modern World
This exhibit had few, if any artifacts, but presented a history of the Silk Road-- the trade route(s) between central China and Baghdad in the Middle East.  Four cities were highlighted along the route (Xi'an, Turfan, Samarkand, and Baghdad) and their role in servicing the traders and caravans of the route.  Although trade occurred for many items, silk was a major trade item, and often was used as currency for other goods and services along the route.  A part of the exhibition detailed the history of silk and how it is made--  fascinating.  (Silk worms are as domesticated as cows are--  they are blind, eat only mulberry leaves, and would now perish if left to fend for themselves in the wild.  Silk cocoons are literally unravelled to harvest the silk threads.  The coccoon must be boiled in water prior to unraveling, which is fatal to the pupae).

Silk Cocoons--  Each of these cocoons contains a silk pupae.  The cocoons are dropped in boiling water to break down the sticky binding agent.  The end of the threads are located, then "unwound" from the cocoon onto a reel, then processed for thread.
Genghis Khan
This exhibit highlighted the life and history of the famous 13th century Mongolian invader, and the empire he and his descendents created by conquering neighboring territories.  The Mongol empire stretched from Baghdad in the Middle East to the shores of the Pacific (although the Mongols were unsuccessful in conquering Japan), and from the edges of the Russian empire down to India.  The exhibit included many weapons and other artfifacts of the Mongol era, and described how Genghis was both ruthless and wise in his governance and organization.

Despite the expense I would recommend a visit to the museum, should you find yourself in Singapore for a visit.