The sculptures stand in London and Hong Kong and were cast at foundries in Gloucestershire, UK, and Shanghai, China

HSBC has unveiled a pair of sculptures to mark its 150th anniversary. The cast-bronze sculptures, each representing a single grain of rice, stand at the head offices of the bank in its home markets of Hong Kong and the UK.


What is the symbolism of the shape?
A grain of rice is an example of an internationally-traded commodity. The design reflects HSBC’s origins as a bank supporting international trade. A single grain of rice is too small to be traded – it takes many of them together to make something valuable. The sculpture can be seen to represent each individual employee, shareholder and customer whose collective efforts and support have helped make HSBC what it is today.

The design reflects HSBC’s origins as a bank supporting international trade

What is the design on the surface?
A pattern made up of 150 images illustrating moments, people and objects from HSBC’s history is engraved on the outside of each sculpture. It includes excerpts from historic account books and ledgers, details from old banknotes, pictures of office buildings, portraits of former colleagues and snapshots of teams working for the bank around the world today.

The sculptures are hollow, and big enough for a person to step inside. The bronze lining on the inside is polished so that it shines, catching the light.

Why are there two sculptures?
HSBC first opened its doors in Hong Kong in 1865: our headquarters today are in London. Both places are crucial to our past, present and future. The sculpture in Hong Kong, more than 10 metres tall, is outside our office at 1 Queen’s Road Central. The London sculpture, 6 metres tall, is in the reception of 8 Canada Square in Canary Wharf. Apart from the difference in size, the sculptures are identical, reflecting the connections between our two home markets.

The London statue is almost 6 metres tall

How were the sculptures commissioned?
We wanted a commemorative artwork which would represent our long history of connecting customers to opportunities, helping businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, and enabling individuals to realise their ambitions. We engaged the Cass Sculpture Foundation to help us. The foundation is a UK charity founded in 1992 which commissions large artworks.

Cass asked a number of artists from the UK and China to provide design proposals. We were keen to hear from emerging as well as established talents. In June 2013, HSBC selected A Grain of Rice as the proposal which most closely matched the brief. The proposal was put forward by Based Upon, a London studio creating art and design for private customers since 2005. The Hong Kong sculpture, which members of the public will be able to see and enjoy, is the studio’s first to be accessible to the general public.

How were the sculptures made?
The sculptures were cast at two separate foundries: Pangolin, in Gloucestershire, UK, and ST Art in Shanghai, China. The precision engraving was carried out using techniques pioneered by Based Upon. Every creative decision on the sculpture's form and placement was guided by Master Lung, a Feng Shui expert.

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HSBC's history

HSBC's history

HSBC is named after its founding member, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, which was established in 1865 to finance the growing trade between Europe, India and China.