Avid Art Collector Gifts A Yayoi Kusama Sculpture To Singapore

A 81-year-old art enthusiast gifts Singapore a statue, Kei-Chan, by Yayoi Kusama.

Mar 10, 2021 | By Joseph Low
Lee Tuan; Image Credit: Craig Gibson for the FT

If you have visited the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay last weekend, you will probably notice a sculpture of a girl in a red and pink polka-dot dress. The 2.6m-tall sculpture, named Kei-Chan, was created by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The “polka-dot” princess (that’s what people calls her) recently concluded her art exhibition at the Gillman Barracks, but I digress. 

The subject of this piece today is Lee Tuan, the art collector who has donated Kei-Chan to the Gardens. Lee, who is 81 this year, is an avid collector of art and contemporary jewellery pieces. The quest for these unique collections takes her across the globe and so far she has accrued more than 300 items and has privately gifted away close to about 100 of them to various art institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to name a few.

Lee Tuan with Kei-Chan; Image Credit: Straits Times

Though it may seem that Lee’s collections are often welcomed with open arms, the Gardens is actually her first recipient. “The Gardens were the first to appreciate my items. I have tried to donate in the past in Singapore, but I do hear that my art is too modern for people’s taste,” admits Lee in an interview by The Straits Times. While other forms of philanthropy—predominantly monetary donations—are the norm, art philanthropy may still have a long way to go as certain artworks may not be deemed suitable or “too modern” to be displayed publicly. We do hope to see a shift in perspectives when it comes to the appreciation of the arts.

As much as we strive to be a society that’s able to produce top talents in the fields of science and technology, we must not neglect the artists and creative individuals that are also residing in our society. To quote the prolific American writer Henry James, “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Perhaps no one sums it up more clearly than Henry James, and society should not be forced to choose a side but strike a balance.

Kei-Chan, a sculpture created by Yayoi Kusama; Image Credit:

Pioneers like Lee are the everyday heroes we need in our society, to remind us that life is much more than just the hustle and bustle but to stop and smell the roses as well. And we can’t think of a better home for Kei-Chan than the Gardens—where she’s surrounded by a sea of flowers.

Slider Image Credit: The Straits Times

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