Gerogetown, the main city in Penang (an island in northern Malaysia), is famous for street art: murals and iron wire art. The government have put effort into installing them since 2012 and the tourism board provides free city maps with their locations marked. Apparently, these street art are “official,” not like Banksy randomly walked up to a wall and started painting.
The “official” street art
I especially liked the 3D murals, which use random items such as bicycles or swings as part of the mural. These murals were painted by Ernest Zacharevic, a talented artist painting murals all over the world. Many of the 2D murals are his pieces as well.
Below are my favorite iron wire art, out of over 50 of them throughout town. As for these iron wire art, all the locations are marked on the map.
The “unofficial” art
While the “official” art are amazing, I started looking for murals that are not on maps, which could be categorized as “unofficial.” Some I randomly found while walking in town, others I googled their locations. I found out that the first international street art festival took place in 2014, adding a range of murals. Maybe it’s about time the tourism board updated their map.
this one is my favorite
This is only part of the mural. Go to Georgetown to see the whole piece!
My Airbnb host recommended me to check out Hin Bus Depot, which is an abandoned bus depot turned into an outdoor art gallery. A number of interesting murals and installations can be found here for free. The place is airy, green, and the abandoned feeling reminded me of Berlin. With 2 cafes to relax in, it’s an oasis surrounded by big buildings and busy streets.
Then there’s the ads. Some hotels have street art painted on their walls for advertisement. Clearly, tourists will take photos with them, and a lot of their photos must go online. (just like I’m doing here.) Smart move.
Mr.Bean is at this hotel too!
The beauty of street art is that they don’t last forever. There were more than a few Ernest’s paintings that I found online but had already faded away. That is, in less than 4 years. It’s about the now, and that’s what I like about them. The next time I visit Penang, I probably won’t see most of the murals I saw on this trip. But I am looking forward to finding new ones. They are like treasure hunting!
Do you like street art?
Tips for finding street art
- Walk around slowly
If you buzz off on a taxi, you will probably not notice them.
- Look around
A mural may be on a wall that’s not facing you.
- When you find one, look around even more carefully
When one mural becomes famous, it is likely that another one is drawn just by it. Sometimes for the artist to get attention, other times for the building/wall owner (hotels, shops) to get attention. Look around the mural you found, including the wall facing it, and the other side of the building if possible.
- Google the locations
While it is enjoyable to treasure hunt street art, there is no rule that you have to randomly encounter one! I found this site especially helpful.