By Darren Griffiths

The Georgetown Street Art Scene, Penang, Malaysia

26th January 2024

Georgetown on Malaysia’s Penang Island is one of our favourite places in the world in part because of the vast amount of creative Georgetown street art around every corner. Georgetown’s old buildings have become a canvas for international artists which makes this place such a unique and artistic destination to visit. In this guide to the George Town penang street art scene, we’ll show you all of the most important pieces, how and where to see them, and reveal our most favourite pieces!

Georgetown Street Art: Wrought Iron Structures

Since Georgetown was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008, the city has changed dramatically.

Tourism has soared as curious travellers began to learn about the city and its historic heart. Georgetown is a fascinating living museum.

A multicultural community living amongst one of our favourite old towns full of crumbling Chinese shop houses, grand colonial buildings, and ornate ancient temples.

A “Sculpture at Work” piece
A “Sculpture at Work” piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

The city obviously has a lot of history and with the UNESCO award, Georgetown needed signage for this “living museum”.

Instead of using simple ‘name boards’ to mark the places of interest, it had to do something creative to highlight the city’s unusual character.

The idea would be a large open air gallery throughout the old town, for visitors exploring the heritage site.

A “Sculpture at Work” piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
A “Sculpture at Work” piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

In 2009, Georgetown street art was born. An art competition was run by State Government called the “Marking of George Town”.

It was won by “Sculpture at Work” with 52 steel rod cartoons called “Voices from the People”. These caricatures had designs displaying the character of Georgetown and its people.

You can now find them all over the city at relevant parts of Georgetown.

Georgetown Street Art: Ernest Zacharevic

An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

These Georgetown street art installments were incredibly popular. So much so, that they kicked off a trend of more commissioned art pieces.

The next collection to grace the walls of Georgetown would be by Ernest Zacharevic from Lithuania. These are our favourite pieces of Georgetown street art.

Another Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
Another Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

Ernest Zacharevic’s illustrations were commissioned by the Georgetown Festival in 2012, to reflect the multiculturalism and diversity of Georgetown’s inhabitants.

It’s called the “Mirrors George Town” project and includes some innovative exhibits and impressive huge-scale murals.

An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

The large murals of Penang’s street artists have transformed the old narrow streets to exciting and engaging areas.

An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Reaching Up - Children Playing Basketball, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
An Ernest Zacharevic piece, Reaching Up – Children Playing Basketball, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

They’re a highlight for many locals and tourists. Ernest Zacharevic’s exhibits brought worldwide interest to the Penang and Georgetown street art scene.

People now travel from across the globe to track down each and every piece by all the artists involved.

Georgetown Street Art: Julia Volchkova

A Julia Volchkova piece Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
A Julia Volchkova piece Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

Some of the later Georgetown street art pieces were created by Russian artist, Julia Volchkova.

In 2014, Julia was invited to paint scenes of the everyday people that represent the spirit of this multicultural community.

In 2016, she completed a series of murals in a village called Balik Pulau, which is located in the centre of Penang Island. It seems Georgetown street art is spreading!

Georgetown Street Art: Other Artists

An “Artists for Stray Animals” piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
An “Artists for Stray Animals” piece, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

There are many other pieces of Georgetown street art to see by lesser-known artists.

It’s great to see some charity artwork on the walls of the city like the above giant cat. This is one of 12 murals depicting cats and dogs as part of the 2013 Georgetown Festival.

The murals are part of a project called 101 Lost Kittens, by a collective named “Artists for Stray Animals”.

The Giant Cat and many others are painted to create awareness of the need for people to protect animals and gain a love for pets.

If you love cat-themed street art, head to Armenian Street.

“I Want Pau” by WK Setor, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia
“I Want Pau” by WK Setor, Georgetown Penang street art, Malaysia

Commercial Georgetown street art can also be discovered around town.

This above illustration, showing two children in a window reaching for rattan trays of Pau (steamed buns), is a commercial billboard for the Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop next to it.

The piece is titled “I Want Pau” and was drawn by WK Setor.

If you like George Town in Penang, you should also check out Ipoh in Perak!

How To See The George Town Penang Street Art

The best way to see all the Georgetown street art is to stay in the old town itself and walk to each piece.

Georgetown Penang Street Art, Malaysia
Georgetown Penang Street Art, Malaysia

There are some wonderful hotels available. We can recommend B Street Hotel, with a location just around the corner from the highest concentration of street art.

There’s even a huge piece right outside the front door!

George Town Georgetown Street Art Penang Malaysia
Georgetown Penang Street Art, Malaysia

Grab yourself a Georgetown Penang street art map, you can use this one to start with, but there are others available once you’re there.

The distances between each piece isn’t much at all and you’ll often find one street containing many artworks. This is why walking is best.

You could hire a bicycle too but be prepared to constantly alight if you want to collect photos of each piece.

There are also hidden pieces inside shop entrances and cafe courtyards so keep your eyes peeled wherever you go!

Georgetown Penang Street Art, Malaysia
Georgetown Penang Street Art, Malaysia

If tours are your thing, there are guided tours organised by the Penang Heritage Trust.

The Penang Heritage Trust was the main campaigner for Penang street art to be listed as a 2008 UNESCO World Heritage Site, so they’ll be full of information as they guide you around Penang street art..

Boy with a Pet Dinosaur, Mirror's George Town Street Art Project, Malaysia (2012)
Boy with a Pet Dinosaur, Mirror’s George Town Street Art Project, Malaysia (2012)

Hin Bus Depot Art Centre

You’ll find the Bus Depot Art Centre at 31A, Jalan Gurdwara in George Town. It has indoor and outdoor art exhibits and a cafe. If you visit on the weekend, there’s also a fun weekend market.

Hin Bus Depot Art Centre is part of the thriving George Town Street art scene
Hin Bus Depot Art Centre is part of the thriving George Town Street art scene

Genius Parking Murals

You; ‘ll find two large murals, just known as the Genius Parking Murals which you’ll find, unsurprisingly, at the Genius parking lot. Painted in 2014, these were part of an Urban Xchange street art project.

The first is a wildly colored boat from 4Some Crew and the other is by Karl Addison and is called Symbiotic Mural.

Being from London, we have seen a lot of street art. But we’ve never seen so many pieces in such a concentrated area.

Penang street art is created in many different ways from empty markers and spray paint to wrought iron, it works wonderfully with the city and compliments the crumbling and restored heritage buildings.

And never before have we seen street art that tells a story like the awesome Georgetown street art does.