SINGAPORE - Putting money into the arts is not a new thing for Keppel Corporation.
The group - the world's largest oil-rig builder and developer, headquartered in Singapore - has contributed an average of $500,000 annually to the visual and performing arts over the past decade.
However, its $12-million donation to the National Gallery Singapore, made in August last year, was the group's most generous to an artistic cause.
Made to mark Keppel's 45th anniversary, the donation will go towards an education and outreach centre within the gallery, named the Keppel Centre for Art Education, which aims to reach more than 250,000 children, young people and families a year.
It took about a year of negotiations before the donation came through.
Says Keppel's chief executive Loh Chin Hua, 52: "When the proposal was put to us, we saw it as a way of reaching the young. The idea as well as the immersive experience the centre will offer made it very appealing. It will be exciting as it is not a static museum display."
The centre is expected to house a Children's Museum with artworks picked or commissioned to appeal to children, and interactive facilities such as an art treehouse where children can crawl into to touch and see art.
Keppel views arts sponsorship as "a way of giving back" to the community, says Mr Loh. It has supported groups such as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the Singapore Dance Theatre for the last two decades.
Its largest gift to the arts, prior to the Keppel Centre for Art Education, was the Keppel Nights programme at the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.
Another arts education initiative, this time targeted at students, youth and senior citizens as well as families, it began in 2008 and has benefited more than 15,000 artsgoers by subsidising 50 per cent of the second and third lowest-priced categories of tickets.
In November last year, Keppel committed $360,000 over two years to the Esplanade for the latest edition of the programme.
It also has brought world-class sculptures into its buildings such as the Ocean Financial Centre in Collyer Quay, developed by Keppel Land.
Three artworks, costing a total of $12 million, were commissioned for public display and installed last year at the Ocean Financial Centre. The works include Tall Tree In The Eye, by renowned India-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor, made of 29 polished stainless- steel spheres that seem to float skywards.
Bringing in artworks into its building spaces, says Mr Loh, is a way of "injecting energy and vibrancy into building spaces and sparking conversations through art".
This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.
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