Singapore to turn iconic statue into hotel for Biennale

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The Independent Travel

Singapore's Merlion is a mythical beast - frozen in time in the shape of an eight-meter tall statue - who is supposed to keep watch over the city's waters and bring wealth and good fortune to its citizens.

As of March, though, the Merlion (that's part mermaid, part lion) will play a entirely different role when its structure is transformed into a hotel as part of this year's Singapore Biennale.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board, work on the project will start on February 7 and the "Merlion Hotel" will be open for overnight stays from March 9 until May 15.

The Singapore Art Museum, which helps curates the Biennale, is behind the project and says more information - such as how many people will be able to stay inside the structure - will be released by the end of the month. Temporary "hotel installations" are increasingly being launched as extensions of art events or exhibitions; some recent examples include the Save the Beach trash hotel in Madrid and the Null Stern hotel in the Swiss town of Teufen.

First built in 1972 and placed at the mouth of the Singapore River, the Merlion was in 2002 moved to its present position overlooking Marina Bay, one of the city's recently re-developed tourism and leisure areas which boasts the boutique Fullerton Bay Hotel as well as the towering Marina Bay Sands casino resort.

The Singapore Biennale was first staged in 2006 and now markets itself as the largest contemporary arts gathering in Southeast Asia - and an Asian rival to the likes of the famed Venice Biennale.

According to organizers, this year's exhibition boasts the works of 63 artists drawn from 30 countries, half of whom have created new commissions or will be premiering new works at the event.

"The curatorial team has worked hard to arrive at the heart of 'SB2011 Open House' by connecting these artistic processes to what we do every day, such as working, commuting, shopping, and eating, as well as obsessive or recreational activities in private or public," artistic director Matthew Ngui said in a statement. "We have consciously related these processes to the urban spaces in which they take place in Singapore, which in turn shapes the structure of each exhibition venue and the placement of artworks."

Singapore Biennale 2011 - Open House
March 13-May 15
(Vernissage March 11-12)
Singapore Art Museum, SAM at 8Q, National Museum of Singapore,
Old Kallang Airport, Marina Bay