Hunting for Georgetown Street Art in Penang, Malaysia

Since its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Georgetown Street Art has developed to showcase Penang’s heritage and culture.  Want to know where to find these street art?

 

Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia is inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage site being a living representation of cultural and trade exchanges among Malays, India, China and a living testimony to British colonial influence.  This is visible in Georgetown’s buildings and structures, multi-cultural locals (Malays, Indians and Chinese), food and daily life.

Because of this multi-ethnicity, Georgetown is known as a food paradise offering a variety of delicious and cheap food options.  However, it’s not mainly the food I came to Penang for, but its expanding street art scene, which has began after Georgetown was declared a World Heritage Site.

Georgetown street art

I managed to find 42 out of the 52 steel-rod sculptures, and over 70 murals, spending about three days walking around Georgetown, and being mistaken as a Thai almost all of the time.

Below, I mapped out where you can find the Georgetown street art.  I also included street arts I “planned to find” but didn’t find. Hehe.  The map isn’t exhaustive of all street arts in Penang (yes, there are more and more street art installations in and outside Georgetown, within Penang island), but I can promise that you’ll get more of the street arts with this map than the maps publicly distributed by the Penang Tourism.  Hope you enjoy viewing the photos as well.

 

Getting around

Before I show you the map and the photos, let me tell you how I got around Georgetown.  It’s simple…by walking, a looooot of walking. Walking for me is the best option because I want my hands free to shoot whatever I like.  Besides, it’s easy to miss some of the street art if you go faster than walking because some are hidden in narrow alleys or hidden by parked cars or other structures.

The drawback is the scorching heat of the sun at midday.  This is easy to deal with, though.  Just wear comfortable footwear and clothes, use sun protection (hat, umbrella) and bring enough drinking water.  Besides, getting tired after a stretch of walking gives you a reason to stop by one of the hawker stalls to refresh your energy.

There is also a Central Area Transit (CAT) bus route going around Georgetown which you can catch for free.  The route and bus stops are also shared in my map.  I usually use the CAT on my way back to the hotel after a day’s walking under the sun when my earthly body reminds me I’m not getting any younger.  You may also wish to check other Rapid Penang routes along Penang Island here.

 

Georgetown Street Art Galore

Georgetown street art can be quite overwhelming so I subdivided these into 1) works of Ernest Zacharevic, the most famous artist who did the first murals along Georgetown streets, 2) the wrought iron sculptures scattered along Georgetown, 3) street arts along Nagore Square, 4) murals around the area surrounding Hin Bus Depot and 4) other murals painted by various artists both local and foreign.

Check out the locations of the street art in the map below. I have also included the CAT bus route and stops.

 

1. Ernest Zacharevik Murals

Ernest Zacharevik is a Lithuanian artist commissioned to paint street art murals during the 2012 Georgetown Festival.   His works drew attention from the locals and foreign tourists alike and became the start of many more street art paintings over the coming years.  What makes his street art appealing is the interactive nature of the murals, making use of real objects as a part of his art work.

The paintings faded over time so he repainted the murals in early 2016, to which I am grateful because I got to see the murals in its restored form.

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2. Wrought Iron Sculptures

The wrought iron caricatures scattered over Georgetown streets depict scenes of the life in Penang.  What I like about the sculptures is the comical way in which the stories are told.  It was also through these art works that I’ve learned why the streets of Georgetown were named as such.  It turns out every street has a story, and with each story, I’ve come to know a little bit more about life in Penang.  (I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of the Chingay sculpture because I had to stand in the middle of a busy road where a lot of cars are passing by.)

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3. 101 Lost Kittens

If there’s 101 Lost Dalamatians, Penang has 101 Lost Kittens.  This project was realized in 2013 by a collaboration of artists comprising of Tang Yeok Khang and Louise Low of Malaysia and Natthaton Muangkliang of Thailand.  The project aims to promote protection and care of stray animals.

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4. Street art in Nagore Square

A little bit further from Georgetown proper is Nagore Square.  Nagore Square is composed of a renovated heritage-inspired design entertainment center with dining and shopping stalls.  It is situated within what looks like a residential area along the intersection of Jalan Burma and Jalan Nagore all the way to Jalan Bawasah.  From Georgetown proper, I went here via Rapid Penang’s Bus 101 then got off at Jalan Burma, Lorong Swatow intersection and walked to Jalan Nagor, which is just the next block.

A bit disappointed that I missed a few street arts because I failed to make a right turn at the building where the large face murals by STRYTS are painted.

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5. Street Art Near Hin Bus Depot

Hin  Bus Depot  used to be an abandoned depot that is now managed by a small team  of artists and art lovers,  working  together  with  the community  to  sustain  the  depot  as  a  space  for arts  and  events.  I felt stupid not being able to find the depot, which I later learned also contained some of the first murals painted by Zacharevic.

Anyway, to redeem myself, I want to pronounce that I did find some street art in the surrounding area of Hin Bus Depot. Hehe. You may check it out below.

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6. Murals by Various Other Artists

After the successful street paintings of Zacharevic, other street arts followed through Urban Exchange 2014 and 2015.  Some of the artists include local artists Bibichun, Fauzan and Louis Gan, American artist Elle, Norwegian artist Martin Whatson, Julia Volchkova of Russia, Elle of USA, Rone of Australia, Tank Petrol of UK and Vexta.

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Georgetown street art has definitely placed Penang, Malaysia in the world map of must visit street art sites.  Street art is exposed to the weather and will therefore fade over time.  It is not only about the artists’ expression of creativity but also a portrayal of the town’s personality.

There is no forever in street art.  Because it is exposed to the weather, it will fade out physically.  However, it can be repainted and restored.  On the other hand, this fact can also give way to new ideas and new works of art.  Having said these, the point I want to arrive at is this….Georgetown’s street art makes me smile, amidst the tired feet and the heat of the sun. Hahaha! That’s about it.

Discover Penang now through its street art before the colors fade away.


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Penang street art

21 thoughts on “Hunting for Georgetown Street Art in Penang, Malaysia

  1. Paul

    We love to search for street art when we travel to new places and like you said, there’s no better way than to walk! We have Penang on our list for our SE Asian travels this year and next so we will definitely search for these ourselves!

    1. findingjing Post author

      Hi Elena! Thanks! I wouldn’t know how I could have done with the mapping without an app. hehe. About the food, I almost always ate at the hawker stalls and did not experience any problem. I tend to eat from those that are cook to order and where both locals and foreigners are queueing up. And yes, I would think kids will enjoy Penang. I noticed a couple of interactive museums within Georgetown. There are also nature parks for both adults and children outside Georgetown. Public transportation is also fairly easy.

  2. Carolina Colborn

    You must have had an awesome finding all of those in three days! We have been doing the same thing…like 20 8-ft boots in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 12 painted air vents in Fairbanks, Alaska, and 20 tree sweaters in Livermore, California. Definitely Penang, Malaysia is now on my list.

    1. findingjing Post author

      I did feel accomplished in that 3 days! hehe! Oh, and I googled all which you have mentioned. I didn’t know they could produce art in such ordinary things. I really appreciate the artists. They never fail to put a smile on my face. 🙂 Happy hunting!

    1. findingjing Post author

      Hi Norbert! Thanks for your comment. Using wordpress, I just selected multiple pictures to create a gallery (instead of inserting one pic at a time), then there’s an option to make it a slideshow. I didn’t install additional plug-ins for this. 🙂

  3. Nathan

    I didn’t know about the street art there but I’m wanting to visit Penang because it was recently named one of the best foodie destinations in the world! The art is also certainly impressive!

    1. findingjing Post author

      You are right, Evan. Just enjoy the walk and you’re sure to find several of them. It’s funny though that instead of avoiding the crowds this time, I found myself stopping where the others were having their photo-ops, a sign of “street art is here”. 🙂

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