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photo of <B>A Great Emporium</B>, Malcolm Koh, 2002



A Great Emporium, Malcolm Koh, 2002

commission: ExxonMobil, supported by Singapore Tourism Board, National Heritage Board, and Singapore Land Authority

location: Singapore River, by Asian Civilisations Museum

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This image is just a detail. The light was failing and my friends arrived for a drink at the BarOpium, so I didn't get an overall photo. Sorry! Sometimes the pleasure principle rules... But I can say that Malcolm Koh's style is even more heroic than the other artists whose work is featured along the river. The scale is also a bit bigger: 1.1 or 1.2 to life. Such wonderful physiques...

text of the label affixed to the work:

[text in English and Chinese] A Great Emporium Malcolm Koh Sculptor Sir Stamford Raffles wrote in 1819, 'Our object is not territory but trade; a great commercial emporium.' At the heart of the settlement's trade was the Singapore River. Lighter craft crowded the banks of the River along Boat Quay, and merchants had offices and godowns either here or at Commercial Square (Raffles Place). early trade was in the cotton, spieces and other exotic commodities; in the 19th century this shifted to rubber, tin and copra. European traders, like those here, profited from Singapore's trade but it was the Chinese traders, like the towkay holding an abacus, who generated the most wealth. Providing much needed labour to the trading industry were Chinese and Indian coolies. Chinese coolies came from the southeastern provinces of china, while Indian coolies hailed from South India. The Chinese coolie and towkay in the sculpture are identified by their queue, or pigtail, which the Qing authorities required all Chinese men to wear. When the Qing dynasty ended in 1912, queues were done away with. The Indian coolie wears the customary turban. Life as a coolie was difficult. Coolies lived in cramped and squalid conditions, often with no proper ventilation or [?]. Many a coolie ended his days in Singapore, alone and penniless, plying the trading boats that crowded the Singapore River. Growing hand-in-hand with trade was the finance industry. The sculpture to the right encapsulates the dramatic changes that the finance industry has undergone: from traditional moneylenders to today's stock market dealers. A Community Project Proudly Sponsored by" [logo of ExxonMobil] in collaboration with [logo of Singapore Tourism Board] [logo of National Heritage Board] [logo of Singapore Land Authority]