Travel Destinations

Penang: The incredible street art of Georgetown

“Boy on a bike” by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic

Quite a few entries have been dedicated to this blog to talk about the Island of Penang in Malaysia and its capital, Georgetown. It will be surprising to many that, in the case of such a small place, whose foundation dates back just three centuries, it has so much rich heritage and history; but it really is so.

urban art georgetown
The awaiting trishaw peddler

For those of us who have had the great fortune of being able to visit it, the scarcity of tourists is also striking compared to other places in Southeast Asia in a place where, in addition to its Heritage, gastronomy, sun and beach tourism shines. , commerce,… But what we haven’t talked about yet is its Urban Art, whose origins are also fascinating.

Since 2008, the capital of Penang Island, Georgetown, has the status of World Heritage City by UNESCO “For its unique urban, architectural and cultural landscape unmatched anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.”

The Government of the province had made important efforts to consolidate his candidacy and, in this sense, regularized the legal situation of the Clan Jetties; privatized, under a concession regime, the exploitation of the Corwallis; repealed rent control; he undertook a major restoration of the “shophouses» –Chinese houses- and “clanhouses” of the city center, etc.

murals malaysia
Caricature by Malaysian artist Tang Mun Kian
Street Art Penang
Caricature by Malaysian artist Tang Mun Kian

But, after being recognized as a World Heritage Site, it still had to take an important step, which was to make itself known to the rest of the world and attract income from tourism to the Island. Thus, in 2010, the Penang State Government sponsored the installation of a series of street art works, made of steel, by the Sculptureatwork Studiothrough the caricatures of the Malaysian artist Tang Mun Kianwhich provide information on local traditions and culture, as well as some data on certain aspects of its historic core.

Amazing mural from Malaysia
Georgetown Street Art, Yakuzart90
Beautiful mural of Marilyn Monroe
Georgetown Street Art, Yakuzart90

But, in 2012, the authorities went further and called an international competition with the intention of beautifying different areas of the city through the street-art; and they were completely right in their proposal because they created a perfect symbiosis between History and modern Art, between the old and the new, between the traditional and the new.

World Urban Art
Genius of the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic
painted walls in malaysia
Bruce Lee
Mural in Penang
sponsored wall

At the 2012 Georgetown Festival, known as Marking George Townthe city commissioned a series of murals from the Lithuanian artist Enrnest Zacharevic who captured scenes of everyday life in a series of mixed media works that incorporate bicycles, wood, swings or mopeds into the paintings. Zacharevic’s collection, known as “Mirrors of Georgetown” It can be said that it is the most sought after by visitors to Penang. Since then, many murals have been incorporated into Penang Street Art, which has welcomed more and more excellent works by local and international artists.

Main work of urban art in Penang
Little Children on a bicycle by Enrnest Zacharevic
Interact with urban art
Children on the swing by Ernest Zacharevic
street art in malaysia
Artwork by Lithuanian artist Enrnest Zacharevic
Stunning Georgetown Murals
Little girl in blue by Ernest Zacharevic

They also highlight the “101 lost kittens” of the Thai artist Natthapon Muangkliang and the malays louis low Y Tang Yeok Khan elaborated, they say, to stimulate social awareness regarding the welfare of stray cats whose role in Penang, on the other hand, is crucial due to the huge number of rats that inhabit the sewers of the island and that, even, the inhabitants hunt in the night and you can find them in cages in the arcades during the morning.

Cat Murals in Penang
Collection “101 lost kittens”
artistic representations of cats
Belonging to the set “101 lost kitten”
Urban Art Malaysia
Mural of “101 lost kitten”
The largest concentration of street art in Malaysia
Collection “101 lost kittens”

And how do you combine all this and visit the amount of street art without the risk of getting lost? First of all, it is an art that adorns, fills and completes the entire city of Georgetown. Just get lost in its streets and pay attention to its walls; but in the second place, and in an excellent example, again, of the magnificent tourist management of the Government of Penang, there are edited some brochuresapart from the map of the island and its capital, which marks the location of the works that can be found in the streets of Georgetown

The best street art artists
Extraordinary mural in Georgetown
Nice murals of Georgetown
Great artistic composition of the streets of Georgetown

Searching for and finding the works of urban art that adorn the streets of Georgetown has become a ritual exercise for all tourists who visit the city. People line up to be photographed with their favorite works and it is not uncommon to find, without asking, someone who points out the mural you are looking for.

colossal street murals
Mural in a Georgetown alley
Street Art in Georgetown
Stunning Georgetown Mural
realism in street art
reaching up
Malaysian street art
Penang Urban Mural

Another of Georgetown’s recent geniuses is his project «chairs» that started in August 2016. They define it as a «social experiment» with the function of «democratizing» the public space of Georgetown.

More than one hundred chairs, painted yellow and numbered, were distributed in August 2016 throughout the Historic Center of Georgetown. The general public can sit on them, move them around, gather them in groups or put them in a secluded place with the only condition that they leave them – or not remove them – from the Historic Center of Georgetown.

Tourism projects in Malaysia
Georgetown Chairs

The project began with the purchase of 20 second-hand chairs, which were painted in a workshop donated by the local government, whose work could be joined by any volunteer who wanted to. Little by little, the inhabitants of the city donated more old chairs to the project, which were restored and painted yellow.

yellow chairs
Georgetown Chairs
Georgetown World Heritage Site
Georgetown Chairs

The secret of the chairs, however, is kept on Twitter with the hashtags #chairs #mygeorgetown: anyone who moves a chair from one place tweets its number and its new location on the network, in the same way that they go to Twitter to find a precise chair marked with a certain number.

So, apart from all that I have told about the Urban Art and Heritage of Penang, the place stands out for the genius of its Government in promoting tourism in the city with a unique and successful model that should be imitated by many other cities in the world. world.

small works of urban art
Two Minions and Two “Minians”
Beautiful mural in the streets of Georgetown
Girl and Sea Turtle
Urban art with paintings and other elements
kids playing basketball

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