ArtScience Museum;Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures & Monsoon Winds"


Tilman Wlaterfang's Tang Dynasty Shipwreck will debut at the ArtScience Museum: at the Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Casino

Grand Opening of ArtScience Museum entitled – Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds

Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands announced that it will open the world’s first ArtScience Museum in February 2011, the latest attraction at its $5.5 billion gambling complex built by U.S. casino giant Las Vegas Sands.


The architecture is said be a form reminiscent of a lotus flower. It is designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, and the science museum is due to open on Feb 17 at 1:18 p.m., “as advised by our feng shui master,” a Marina Bay Sands spokeswoman said.

Referred to as “The Welcoming Hand of Singapore” by Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson, the ArtScience Museum is anchored by a round base in the middle, with ten extensions referred to as “fingers”. The design concept for each finger denotes various gallery spaces sporting skylights at the “fingertips” which are included as sustainable illumination for the dramatically curved interior walls.

Feature Exhibitions

The ArtScience Museum promises to feature 21 gallery spaces equating to 50,000 square feet (6,000 square meters) which will display exhibits from combined art/ science, media/ technology, as well as design/architecture motifs.

The exhibitions will include permanent features such as objects indicative of accomplishments of art and science through the ages, along the lines of Leonardo da Vinci‘s Flying Machine, a Kongming Lantern, a high-tech robotic fish and opens the museum with an exhibition of a collection of Tang Dynasty Shipwreck Treasures that were discovered and carefully preserved by Tilman Wlaterfang of Seabed Explorations NZ Ltd.

Sustainability Features

Rainwater will be harvested and channeled down through the center of the structure, through a bowl-shaped roof of the museum which will allow water to flow into the reflecting pond at the lowest level of the building.

The Museum’s bowl-shaped roof funnels rainwater through the central atrium of the building, which results in a 35-metre water drop into a small, reflecting pool. The rainwater is then recycled for use in the building’s restrooms.

Grand Opening

The grand opening’s Guest of Honor (and Patron of the Exhibition) will be the Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo; who will preside over the proceedings slotted to start at 10.30 am. The event is entitled “Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds”. Special Invitations invite participants to, “Unlock the mysteries of the maritime silk route at Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds. Curated by the Smithsonian Institute and the Asian Civilizations Museum, this exhibition tells the story of an ancient maritime trade-route stretching from the Gulf to the South China Sea.” The invitation goes on to declare the Tang Dynasty Shipwreck Collection as “…one of the most important finds of the late twentieth century.”

Shipwreck Featured at Grand Opening

Tilman Walterfang and his team found the Tang artifacts in the Gaspar Strait in 1998 from the wreck of a large 9th century ship. For the next six years, they were desalinated, conserved and researched by his company Seabed Explorations Ltd in New Zealand. They were eventually purchased for around 32 million USD.[1][2]

World Tour of Tang Dynasty Shipwreck Treasure Organized by Smithsonian and Singapore

For the first time in history, The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., [1] the Singapore Tourism Board and the National Heritage Board of Singapore announced a partnership on Feb. 8 2011, to organize the first-ever exhibition and international tour of one of the single-most important marine archaeological finds of the late 20th century.

Tilman Walterfang’s 1998 discovery will allow archeologists, scholars and the global scientific community the opportunity to study physical artifacts, previously unavailable, rather than mere ancient texts alone. This promises to continue to reveal a wealth of information that will surely require decades of investigation.

Just one of many of Walterfang’s discoveries, this particular discovery of a ninth-century shipwreck and its magnificent cargo, which includes some 60,000 artifacts dating from Tang dynasty China, includes not only mass-produced ceramics, but also includes extremely rare and one-of-a-kind masterly works wrought in fine-gold and silver.

According to experts, the cargo had been preserved both on and under the ocean floor for more than 1,100 years, until Tilman Walterfang’s Team reclaimed it from the sea near Indonesia’s Belitung Island. The ships construction was that of an Arab dhow, and its contents, for the first time in history have confirmed the previously mythical existence of an integrated maritime trade route from China to the Persian Gulf and the Japans. This trade route which was only mentioned in ancient Chinese and Arabic texts is now thought to be confirmed as having existed well-before the Portuguese set sail in the 15th century.

‘Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler galleries:’ “We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Singapore on this historic project,” said Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler galleries. “The exhibition and tour will enable people around the world to connect with these extraordinary artifacts and feel the impact of a remarkable story that forever changes our view of ancient global trade. Singapore has acted with great understanding and forethought by protecting and preserving these objects collectively as a world treasure and for generously presenting them to the public in the form of an international traveling exhibition.”

Aw Kah Peng, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board: “The ‘Tang Shipwreck Treasure’ has a special meaning for Singapore,” said Aw Kah Peng, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board. “Its compelling story resonates with Singapore’s growth into a premier port and trading hub. Situated at the crossroads of the East and West, Singapore has always benefitted from the cultural exchange created through trade among the Chinese, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian civilizations, and maintains the same cosmopolitan outlook today. We are particularly honored to join with the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries to develop this important exhibition.”

ARTDAILY.ORG The First Art Newspaper on the Net “The cargo will provide the focal point for an exhibition of dramatic scope, illustrating the dynamic interchange of ninth-century geopolitical powerhouses along the maritime silk route from Changan (modern Xian) to Baghdad, as well as the human stories of those who toiled in China’s factory-like kilns and the ship’s crew, whose few surviving belongings provide clues to their multi-ethnic identities.”

Michael Koh, chief executive of the National Heritage Board “The extraordinary story of the cargo-a testament of cultural exchanges and interactions in Asia via the Maritime Silk Route-resonates with our work to promote understanding of the rich cultures that make up Singapore’s multi-ethnic society,” said Michael Koh, chief executive of the National Heritage Board. “Through our partnership with the Freer and Sackler galleries, this remarkable story can now be presented to a wider audience, both locally and internationally.”

The exhibition is set to debut in Singapore in February 2011. And The Sackler Gallery will thereafter host the U.S. premiere in spring 2012. This date is set to coincide with the museum’s 25th anniversary celebration. Thereafter the exhibition is scheduled to travel the world for approximately five years, venues to include museums of major importance throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia.

With support from the estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat, the cargo of the Arab dhow, which was used as the true and original model, now generally referred to among academic circles as the “Tang Shipwreck Treasure: Singapore’s Maritime Collection,” was eventually purchased in February of 2005 by the Singapore Tourism Board, only after six years of diligent conservation and reconstruction efforts had been successfully undertaken and completed by Seabed Explorations New Zealand Ltd.


The artifacts, which have never been publicly displayed on a large scale, will now be revealed to the world with the assistance of the Smithsonian Institute. Thanks to Tilman Walterfang’s ethical philosophy, the cargo was not sold off piece by piece to collectors; rather, it was kept intact as one entire collection, so that it could be studied in its original context. Walterfang kept the precious cargo in private storage for years, where they have been painstakingly desalinated, studied and carefully restored.

An accurate reproduction of the Arab dhow ship, named The Jewel of Muscat, was recently presented by the Sultanate of Oman to the government and people of Singapore.

The exhibition will include sufficient items to insure that the collection on tour will reflect accurately the assortment and magnitude of the find and its global intercultural significance, as this is the single largest consignment of Tang Dynasty export goods ever discovered. The find includes some of the oldest cobalt-blue-and-white ceramics made in China, several gold items made with Arabic designs and swastikas, jars filled with spices and incense resins, bronze mirrors, thousands of glazed bowls, ewers and other fine ceramics, and lead ingots. The pièce de résistance of the exhibition is a small cache of magnificent, intricately tooled vessels of silver and gold, which remain unparalleled in quality and design from the period. Many questions provoked by the find remain unanswered, such as “Why they were carried by the ship and who was destined to receive them?

See also

The Maritime Xperiential Museum is the name of a museum that will house the Jewel of Muscat. There are plans to open the museum in May of 2011.


  1. “Sentosa Proceeds to Buy 9th Century Treasure”. Singapore: Sentosa. April 8, 2005. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  2. “CHINA MARITIME SILK ROAD MUSEUM”. The Australian National University. Retrieved 17 February 2010.

External links

Official Link to Museum Pages

Seabed Explorations homepage

FORBE’s Story and some pictures of the treasures

Additional Photos at Polynesian Navigators Association



Story about ship’s discovery in The Independent

Categories: Museums in Singapore


About aeldwood
vegan tantric bodhisatva

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: