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No matter where we are, as soon as we hear that there is some street art to discover, there is no need to tell us twice, we’ll make it our priority for sure – and that’s exactly what happened when we went searching for street art in Georgetown on the island of Penang, Malaysia. Without being sure of what to expect in terms of the street art in Georgetown due to it being a protected UNESCO Heritage site, we simply decided to venture out there with no expectations.
"Can graffiti be allowed in such an old part of the town where its heritage needs (and has) to be preserved?" Having no expectations is sometimes the best in my opinion, in this case the findings can either be satisfactory or simply disliked, but cannot really cause any disappointment. With this spirit we started our walk through the old town of Penang hoping to get lost while searching for art and everything else that caught our attention.
There are different artists that contributed to change the streetscape of Georgetown, one of them is the talented Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic that has left a very unique sign on those walls that not only are appreciated from tourists, but also by the locals too. What a Nice Challenge for the Ambitious Young Artist! Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.
If it was me, I would have need to think carefully how to mark these walls with something that could perhaps enhance the local culture and lifestyle. Definitely not an easy task that Ernest Zacharevic managed to finish extraordinarily in my eyes! The street art in Georgetown and his wall paintings represent characters and scenes that celebrate the energy and playfulness of life in the inner city. These murals have in fact transformed what used to be normal streets into more unusual, lively, witty and engaging ones.
There are about 9 murals in total done by the Lithuanian artist and we hope that they are still there as some of them were already fading when we visited Penang back in January 2013. Please do hurry up if you don’t want to miss them and the rest of the street art in Georgetown because soon they might disappear! Here is a map that will certainly help you to locate them, don’t be afraid though to wonder in other side streets, there are plenty of other art pieces to be discovered, nice little shops, the local houses, temples and the scenes of the locals living their lives in these great surroundings.
Finding the Street Art “Reaching Up” was the first painting we stumbled on and almost missed it because from distance it almost looks real. The drawn boy is in fact reaching for a hole standing on a real chair which helped our confusion. Reaching up, Cannon Street The one we saw afterwards was difficult to spot due to its deteriorated state. All I can say is that it represents an old man, probably local.
It’s a large painting indeed but without taking anything away from the effort needed to make it, isn’t one of my favourites. Soon after we saw people posing close by an old bicycle to have a picture taken, and there were few others waiting their turn to do the same. This murals represented two children riding an actual bike, on their faces you can actually read their happiness and playfulness, if you stopped for a second you could actually hear their laughter.
From there we went to the jetty where we’ve been lucky enough to see one of the murals that unfortunately is disappearing fast due to weathering conditions as you can see from the photo.For this one, like for all the other paintings, Ernest used an old picture of two children and a cat on a boat. Shame it’s not gonna last! Walking back into the inner city, we spotted another little queue of people posing in funny ways, this time by a disused motorbike.
This mural is on a side door (which I particularly liked) of what used to be a popular shophouse and represent a young boy (probably too young to ride a motorbike) simply watching the traffic passing by. On the same street just few steps apart there is another painting of a child taking his dinosaur for a walk . This one is a bit surrealistic compared to the other murals but opened to personal interpretation.
Before even getting closer, we could already see a giant girl lifting herself with her hands. This painting was slightly different from the others we saw not only for its large size, but also because this time there was no smile on the painted character. I have to admit this one didn’t captured me in particular, not sure why. The last Ernest Zacharevic’s mural we saw showed an elderly man on his trishaw paddler having a break perhaps, who knows? Unfortunately we missed one named ‘Broken Art’, hopefully if you go out there to see those pieces one day, you’ll be more fortunate than us.
In fact we didn’t really follow a set route or a proper tour (which are available anyway), we simply wandered around freely, stopping every time we wanted to and discovering Penang’s beauty at our own pace. We liked it that way! We recommend doing it in the same way (unless you like to be guided or you are on a very tight schedule and have no time to waste to mess around of course). Walking around trying to find the street art in Georgetown is an amazing free activity that showed us a very different kind of street art and also made us discover so much more of the city.
Street Art in Georgetown MAP View ‘Ernest Zacharevic Murals Walking Trail’ in a larger map Are you a street art lover?
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Headed up to Penang for a quick weekend getaway? Here’s a detailed and in-depth guide to help you find where exactly all the famous works of Penang street art in George Town, the central part of Penang where you’ll find most of the tourists. I have another guide dedicated to street art in Penang outside the George Town core area, and here are some ideas for other things to do in Penang besides hunting street art.
Post updated: Dec 2017 There has been quite a boom of street art in Penang since 2012 and my last trip in 2014 when I first created this post. To make things easier for you, I’ll be recommending some routes that you can follow, as well as have a handy Google Map on hand so you can plan for short walks when exploring George Town on your own. If you are looking for accommodation options, check out The Frame Guesthouse where I stayed in 2016, or Mango Tree Place in 2014 (review here), both were pretty good places I’d recommend.
*Booking.com affiliate links above, which means if you click through and make a booking, I get a small % commission from them, at no extra cost to you! This helps pay for hosting and maintenance fees. I use booking.com on most of my own travels as well. There’s a lot of information to take in – use this menu for a quick way to find the information. The route colours correspond to those on the Google Map above.
I’m thinking of doing individual maps, but maybe later on because hell just updating this post for 2016 took me most of the day! Suggested routes to find street art in Georgetown, Penang A quick intro to the various street art projects that have coloured Penang Orange: Lebuh Ah Quee > Lebuh Pantai > Lebuh Gat Chulia Red: Lebuh Armenian > Lorong Soo Hong > Gat Lebuh Armenian > Chew Jetty Yellow: Lebuh Cannon > Lorong Lumut > Lorong Toh Aka Green: Lebuh Stewart > Jalan Muntri > Jalan Penang > Leith Street > Lebuh Chulia If you are feeling adventurous, I have another guide to help you venture outside of Georgetown Core and other parts of Penang for more street art! Street Art Projects in Penang The street art in Penang can be classified into several categories below.
Ernest Zacharevic works: This Lithuanian artist is probably the reason why street art became such a big deal to Penang in the first place, after his commissioned work ‘Mirrors George Town’ for the George Town Festival back in 2012 became a big hit. His works are by far the most popular out of all the street art I saw, with queues forming to take pictures with these works and appearing on souvenirs quite prominently.
He recently had a solo exhibition in early 2014 titled Art is Rubbish is Art, and now has works that can be found in various part of Malaysia, Singapore and Europe. 101 Lost Kittens: This collection of 12 cat-related street artworks is a project by Thai artist Natthapon Muangkliang and Malaysian artists Louise Low and Tang Yeok Khang aimed at creating awareness towards stray animals. Here’s a quite detailed blogpost about where you can find all the 101 Lost Kittens artworks.
Urban Exchange 2014 and 2015: Creative space Hin Bus Depot and Urban Nation organizes an annual urban arts festival that invites both local Malaysian and prominent overseas street arts to Penang to transform the buildings with murals and street art. Beyond murals, it also brings together contemporary art and outdoor art installations to the streets of Penang. Marking George Town: These 52 iron structures can be found in abundance throughout George Town, and were actually commissioned by the Penang Tourism Board to provide a fun pictoral anecdote about the history of the street it is located on, and is a rather fun way to learn a little bit about Penang’s heritage.
I don’t cover that in here because the locations are already pretty well documented by the Tourism Board Others: There are many different street artworks besides those listed above, some by random artists and others commissioned by the local tenants. I tried my best to find out info about these artists and credit them accordingly here, but if you do have updates, please let me know! Resources *Remember that street art is transient and ever-changing and I might have overlooked some spots! ORANGE Part I: LEBUH AH QUEE (Ah Quee Street) Start from Lebuh Cannon junction and walk down towards Jalan Pantai junction.
At junction with Lorong Pit: This Marking George Town structure explains how Ah Quee street got its name. The minion next to it shouting at the yellow hydrant is pretty amusing Off Lebuh Ah Quee: You should across this odd little clearing to your left as you walk, and there’s a bunch of random street art in this place that’s quite fun (didn’t take pictures then, too crowded!), but in particular, this one is a part of 101 Lost Kittens project, and is quite a hilarious piece called ‘The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This’.
Note that there are 3 cats in this picture! Update Feb 2016 – this piece is looking a bit worse for wear now… Close to Jalan Pantai junction: Update Feb 2016 – Ernest Zacharevic came back in 2016 to do a little touching up for his various artworks, so this work that I saw fading in 2014 is now restored, yay! Just past Ernest Z’s Boy and Dino: Another popular piece of Ernest Zacharevic’s, of a boy on a motorbike.
Update Feb 2016 – The motorbike seat has seen some serious wear and tear from all the tourists pretending to perch on the back for photos, though it was patched when I saw it this time! Expect this one to be crowded as well Just past Ernest Z’s Boy on Bike: look for some 3D sculptures on the wall – this one looks like a Chinese dragon Near Jalan Pantai Junction: On the wall facing Ernest Z’s work is this piece featuring a man wearing a shirt of the Malaysian flag.
It’s marked with a ’27’ – anyone know who it’s by? ORANGE Part II: LEBUH PANTAI (Beach Street) Turn left at the Lebuh Pantai junction. Walk past Gat Lebuh Chulia junction. Before you reach Lebuh Pasar, you should come across a carpark on your left where you should see these two artworks quite easily: I first saw German Karl Addison aka idrawalot‘s work in Sheung Wan, but his sketchy style is pretty distinctive.
This huge piece on one side of the carpark is called Symbiotic Relationship for UX2014. On the other side of the carpark facing idrawalot is this work by Malaysian artist Fauzan Faud, also for UX2014. The colours are pretty outstanding ORANGE Part 3: Gat Lebuh Chulia Turn back down Lebuh Pantai and walk towards Gat Lebuh Chulia. Turn left and walk towards Pengkalan Weld aka Weld Quay. Between Lebuh Victoria and Pengkalan Weld: There is a small alleyway to the left of Gat Lebuh Chulia.
This piece by Louis Gan is on the right side of the alley. Like Ernest Z’s work, this one features a 3D swing and 2D murals of children standing on it. Step by Step Lane is also painted on. On the other side of the alley from the swing work is this Chinese style minion. Note the other minion heads on the right peeking around the door! *on the opposite of Gat Lebuh Chulia is another alleyway.
Within that one you can see another of Louis Gan’s murals, which show two kids playing basketball. I missed that this time around! Back to Menu on Top RED Part I: CHEW JETTY After you are done with the orange route above, continue walking down Gat Lebuh Chulia till you reach Pengkalan Weld. Turn right and walk down the road (away from the Bus interchange). You should pass various jetty entrances, stop and turn in the one that says Chew Jetty.
Entrance to Chew Jetty: Here’s Ahmah and Ahsoon (Grandma and Grandson) right next to the entrance to Chew Jetty. There is another mural of Ahmah and Ahkong somewhere along the pier, though I seem to have missed it >_< Side of My Chew Jetty Vacation Home facing sea: If you do walk to the end of Chew Jetty, you’ll see the remnants of Ernest Zacharevic’s Children in a boat mural on the side of My Chew Jetty Vacation Home.
Sad it’s gone! RED Part II: GAT LEBUH ARMENIAN Backtrack towards Pengkalan Weld and cross the road. Gat Lebuh Armenian should be directly opposite. Walk straight up the road towards Lebuh Armenian. Before Lebuh Victoria junction: on the right side of the road, this I Want Bao! mural which is next to Ming Xiang Tai pastry shop. Similar in style to the Ernest Zacharevic ones, it features an actual bicycle and bun steamers, and you can see painted buns when you peep in from the top Past Lebuh Victoria Junction: A little further down Gat Lebuh Armenian on the left side of the road is another artwork from the 101 Lost Kittens project.
It’s called “Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat”, and I suspect the same artist who drew the big rat with the Skippy artwork drew this little teeny mouse hanging on the side too Further down from Fortune cat: This blue kitten is a little further down, also across the street from Skippy. On the weekend, they rent bicycles from a little table in front of this kitten Past Blue Kitten: On right side of the road, you can’t quite miss Skippy for Penang, this huge cat mural on the wall.
Skippy’s the main mascot of the 101 Lost Kittens Project. I think another artist drew in the large rat around the corner, which makes this a rather hilarious mural when you see this 2 pieces together! Past Skippy, near Jalan Pantai junction: this little 3D sculpture of little kittens on clothes poles, also a part of the 101 Lost Kittens Project. Update Feb 2016 – Now you will see people actually hanging clothes on this piece, and the cats aren’t very intact anymore… *another 101 Lost Kittens work entitled ‘Please care and bathe me’ is somewhere around here, though I couldn’t find it! RED Part III: LEBUH ARMENIAN (Armenian Street) After Gat Lebuh Armenian, cross the Lebuh Pantai junction towards Lebuh Armenian and walk all the way up.
You will need to make a minor detour towards Lorong Soo Hong. This road is closed to vehicular traffic on weekends. Junction of Lebuh Pantai – this work ‘Cats & Humans Happily Living Together’ is actually within the grounds of Cheah Kongsi, whose entrance is along Armenian Street after the bicycle work below. You can also see the work from along Lebuh Pantai if you rather not go in, though entrance is free! These cats are in a Taoist deity procession Junction of Lebuh Pantai: you can’t miss most Kids on Bicycle on the right side of the street – this is perhaps Ernest Z’s most popular mural.
Expect there to be a lot of people who want to take photos with this artwork! The bike is affixed to the wall, so most people either pretend to sit on the back, or chase after the bike Past Bicycle work: On the right side of the road there is an alleyway, where you can see this artwork called ‘I can help catch rats”, which is also part of the 101 Lost Kittens project. Go down this alleyway.
I know it looks dodgy, but trust me, turn left at the end and walk straight down. Behind Edelweiss Cafe: Congratulate yourself if you manage to find this artwork – it should be on the left side after you emerge from the back alley. This is part of the 101 Lost Kittens artworks called ‘No Animal Discrimination Please’. Keep walking straight on till you are on Lorong Soo Hong. Lebuh Armenian should be running parallel on your left Along Lorong Soo Hong: It’s quite hard to miss this large purple artwork about learning to speak Hokkien, along with Hokkien phrases on the floor! It’s drawn by Malaysian artists Jim Oo Chun Hee and John Cheng (source) Next to Hokkien Work: Don’t miss this tiny little piece at the corner of the Hokkien artwork! It’s so cute, and it’s not very big.
Turn right and walk up Lorong Soo Hong, away from Lebuh Armenian. We’ll come back in a bit. Further up Lorong Soo Hong: This work was once two minions stacked on top of each other. Now it’s Marge Simpson – I left the original work in the picture below for reference Back in 2014, Marge Simpson was actually minions! You can see the Hokkien artwork and Lebuh Armenian in the background. Go back down to Lebuh Armenian, turn right and keep walking on Junction of Lorong Soo Hong: This is on the wall in front of the shop at the corner of Lorong Soo Hong and Lebuh Armenian that sells souvenirs.
On most days except Mondays, there is a little stall to my left called 70s Ice that sells the old school dessert Ice Balls! Before Lebuh Cannon junction: this is painted on old store shutters on the right side of the road – I’m quite tickled by the screaming girl behind me Back to Menu on Top YELLOW: Start from LEBUH CANNON From Lebuh Armenian junction, turn left and walk down Lebuh Cannon.
Before Lebuh Acheh Junction: This is opposite the entrance to Khoo Khongsi on the right side of the street. I didn’t manage any decent pictures that showed the window properly, so here’s one of a random person while we were waiting our turn Right across the road from the boy on chair is this cat in a blue window that’s kinda slightly disconcerting because it’s eyes are so huge and not the same size Lorong Lumut: From Lebuh Cannon, turn right onto Lebuh Acheh and in a short distance, turn left onto Lorong Lumut.
It’s a pretty quiet lane that sees the odd car and motorcycle go by, but I spotted this cute robot saying hi This is actually a pretty small stencil on the left hand wall This mural by Julia Volchkova should come up on your left side. It’s absolutely stunning, the way the old lady looks like she’s a part of the tree! Right next to the old lady is this graffitied shutter which is kinda cute Junction of Lorong Toh Aka and Lebuh Pantai: From Lorong Lumut keep walking till you reach Lorong Toh Aka.
Lorong Tok Aka splits weirdly at the junction – take the road without turning that will bring you back to Lebuh Pantai. This work is called Security by Bibichun – it faces Lebuh Pantai junction On the other side of Lorong Toh Aka from the guardian is this Oscar the Grouch, also by Bibichun! Lebuh Pantai: Across the road from the Bibichun work is this one by German artist Don John for UX2015.
It’s a melting rose ice cream cone but I’m not sure if it has any further meaning! And in that same alcove is the Lang Hoose hotel and it has this little girl directly facing the rose cone Back to Menu on Top GREEN: start from LEBUH STEWART Ok I didn’t link this walk with the other three as it is a little bit further away. Start from Jalan Masjid Kepitan Keling and walk along Lorong Stewart.
Along Lorong Stewart: Keep an eye out for a very narrow alleyway on your right hand side – there is a magnificent white tiger by Japanese street artist TWOONE aka Hiroyasu Tsuri. Not the easiest to photograph because alleyway is so narrow! Junction of Lebuh Klang: Look to the left and find this very large boatman by Julia Volchkova Jalan Muntri: Walk past the Love Lane junction when Lorong Stewart becomes Jalan Muntri.
Keep walking till you see Penang Ta Kam Hong on your left – Ernest Z’s Kungfu girl looms large on the wall. Somehow I missed this in 2014 despite walking past several times. I still don’t understand how I missed it. near junction of Jalan Penang and Jalan Muntri – Walk to the end of Jalan Muntri till you reach Jalan Penang junction. Turn right and walk till you reach a small carpark on your right.
This work is on the side of the building facing the carpark. It is one of Ernest Zacharevic’s pieces and it is HUGE. Near junction of Leith Street and Jalan Penang: Turn back down Jalan Penang, walk past Jalan Muntri until you hit the Lebuh Chulia junction. Instead of going down Lebuh Chulia, take a small detour up Leith Street to spot this little work by ‘Kang’ on the side of shophouses Lebuh Chulia: Head back down to Lebuh Chulia, walking away from Jalan Penang.
You should see Chulia Mansion on the right side of the road and if you look up, you’ll spot this girl on a flying turtle. This is a collaboration between Ernest Zacharevic and Argentinian artist Martin Ron Chulia Mansion: On the other side of Chulia Mansion is another artwork – this one by Australian artist Vexta for UX2014. I like the simplicity, and the branch-like hair Back to Menu on Top If you have any additions or corrections, do drop me a comment or an email please! I created this guide based on my own experiences and research, so I may have missed out some things or gotten locations wonky, so do help me make this guide better! Whew if you covered all that, that is a lot of walking indeed! Now how about heading outside of the core George Town area – we’ll be exploring outer areas like the south-western Balik Pulau, and even across to mainland Penang! Or check out some of my other Penang posts.
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Title: George Town Street Art