Don’t be fooled by the faded murals splayed across decrepit walls of back alleys in Penang. Street art in Penang is a phenomenon only sprouted out less than a decade ago.
In 2008, Penang’s capital, George Town, was officially known as the UNESCO World Heritage Site for being a living museum, where people are still living the same way as they had a century ago. All the properties still retain its original form.
In 2012, Penang’s municipal council had the great foresight to breathe new character into some of the traditional shop houses around the inner city. In a bid to inject creative ways of utilizing the public spaces, they worked with London-trained Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic to work on some wall art and revive the rich history of Penang’s streets.
The six murals that Ernest was commissioned to do are inspired by the everyday lives of the locals in Penang, capturing the lively spirit of the city through quirky, interactive, relatable scenes. This tactful artistry brings out the city’s distinct identity and multiculturalism.
His artworks can be found all around Penang’s city centre, along roads like Muntri Street, Weld Quay, Lebuh Leith, Armenian Street, Ah Quee Street and more.
Other forms of creative ingenuity exist in the form of iron rod sculptures, illustrating long-forgotten anecdotes of the streets of Penang that today, mark the lanes of Penang.
Today, Penang’s street art is now an object of attention among locals and tourists alike, with thousands of tourists flocking to Penang just to look at these celebrated wall murals. It helps that going to Penang is so affordable – getting from Singapore to Penang is a mere 1.5 hour by plane, and flight tickets can go as low as USD 30.
Here are 14 of some of travellers’ favourite Penang street art with the exact coordinates so you can visit them for yourself!
- 14 Favourite Penang Street Art Wall Murals
- 1. Little Girl in Blue
- 2. The Indian Boatman
- 3. Boy on Motorcycle
- 4. Peeping Tom Cat
- 5. Girl Walking on Numbers
- 6. Tiny World
- 7. Brother and Sister on Swing
- 8. Ah Mah & Ah Soon
- 9. Jimmy Choo’s Humble Beginnings
- 10. The Boy with Pet Monster
- 11. Little Children On a Bicycle
- 12. The Giant Cat Mural (Skippy)
- 13. Ice Cream Cone With Melting Flowers
- 14. Hoola Hoop Basketball
- Click here for the locations of all the Penang wall art in one map!
14 Favourite Penang Street Art Wall Murals
1. Little Girl in Blue
This little girl in blue along Muntri Street, a three-minute walk from the junction with Love Lane, is actually enormous. Signed ‘Zachas’, the artwork was created by Ernest Zacharevic.
Claire loves the contrast of this sweet little girl looking so large and powerful, like a toddler Godzilla, playfully heaving herself over these two windows.
2. The Indian Boatman
Maire came across The Indian Boatman by chance while meandering through Penang’s charming historic centre.
It’s a beautiful, arresting, larger-than-life painting, and as soon as she saw it, she knew she had to stop and take a picture. It was painted by Russian artist Julia Volchkova, who was apparently inspired by Penang’s multicultural society and especially by its Indian community.
The Indian Boatman is a huge wall mural just on the corner of Klang Street and Stewert Lane.
3. Boy on Motorcycle
Real life meets street art with this clever painting of a boy riding a full-size motorcycle. This boy looks like he’s ready to escape trouble at the first sound of a siren!
4. Peeping Tom Cat
Along Cannon Street, you’ll find proof that cats are always up to no good. This orange ball of fluff is no Garfield. He looks ready to spy on his prey and pounce at any moment. Or perhaps he is inviting you in for a good scratching?
5. Girl Walking on Numbers
This playful girl wearing a traditional cheongsam is sure to find her lucky number as she skips along. Cerise likes how confident she looks as she takes the next step on the shaky ground.
Missing location on this mural art. Drop a comment below if you can identify its location!
6. Tiny World
If you are a street art hunter and happen to like works of Ernest Zacharevic and Julia Volchkova, you might have heard about Balik Pulau of Penang island. This tiny town marks halfway between the airport and fishing villages. A few years ago, both artists painted huge mural art there.
However, Elena shares another incredible artwork that she found in one of the windy passages common in Penang.
The painting is so humongous, and the alley is so narrow that it is impossible to view it in full. You have to walk along the wall to admire all elements of this epic masterpiece one by one.
Stunned by its attention to detail, it consists of literally hundreds of minuscule colourful figures running, swinging, jumping and picking durians’ pieces.
At the bottom, there is a resting giant who they try to feed. The whole wall mural looks like an oriental interpretation of Gulliver’s adventure in the imaginary land of Lilliputians.
The artist cleverly incorporated exposed pipes and wires of a real building into a whimsical mural art. Sadly, despite all efforts, I couldn’t find the name of the artist.
If you are interested in other street art pieces in Balik Pulau, here is the Penang street art map.
7. Brother and Sister on Swing
‘Brother and Sister on Swing’ is a newer street art if you were to compare them to ‘Brother and Sister on Bicycle’ street art. It shows a sister having great time playing with her brother on a swing.
The wall art was done by Louis Gan, a local deaf-mute self-taught artist. Though the road sign shows the name of street as Step By Step Lane, it’s located at Gat Lebuh Chulia, drawn on the back alley wall of a paper printing factory.
8. Ah Mah & Ah Soon
In Hokkien dialect, which is spoken by most ‘Penangites’ like Yen, Ah Mah refers to grandma while Ah Soon is grandson.
This wall art is painted by Simon Tan, a local artist, showing a grandmother spending cheerful time with her grandson. The artwork was Simon Tan’s second mural, after his first piece Ah Kong & Ah Mah (grandpa and grandma).
This street art piece is located at the entrance of Chew Jetty. The Chew Jetty, one of the Clan Jetties (communities with the same name who live in waterfront wooden houses on stilts) at Weld Quay, is also home to another of Ernest Zacharevic’s handiworks. Because of the various art works around the jetty, Chew Jetty is considered one of the most touristic clan jetties in Penang.
9. Jimmy Choo’s Humble Beginnings
This wrought iron caricature of Kadai Kasut (Shoe Shop) was made by Baba Chuah and is mounted on the outside wall of a corner shop on Leith Street. It’s just over from the Hong Kong Shoe Store where a young man named Jimmy Choo began his apprenticeship.
Today, he’s known by the rest of the world as the man who provides shoes to the rich and famous.
Sarah knew his name of course, but didn’t have his shoes, and it wasn’t until she arrived in Penang and started her tour around the artwork that she learned of his beginnings here.
10. The Boy with Pet Monster
Along Ahh Quee Street in George Town you’ll find one of Christine’s favourite piece of street art – The Boy With Pet Monster.
This painting is created by the Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic on a brick wall next to one of his other famous paintings – boy on a bike.
The Boy with Pet Monster is one of the coolest and most creative paintings in the city, since Ernest has mixed fantasy with reality, like the boy is taking his imaginary pet dinosaur out for a walk. It is really impressive and is something you just have to go and see for yourself.
11. Little Children On a Bicycle
The children on the bicycle on Armenian Street are one of the most famous murals in Penang. The girl is taking the boy for a ride, and on the back seat there’s even a spot for you where you can sit down and take your picture!
Unbeknownst to most, the mural is a still portrait based off actual siblings Tan Yi and Tan Kern. Ernest Zacharevic happened to chance upon the siblings while they were frolicking on the bike one fateful day. This chance encounter sparked the eventual manifestation of this very signature mural.
While the children are painted on the wall, the bicycle is real. Since its creation in 2012, the mural that is located at the tip of Armenian Street just across China House is rising in popularity from visitors from all over the world. Even Patrick can’t resist posing with it!
12. The Giant Cat Mural (Skippy)
George Town is full of cat murals, and this one is probably the largest George Town street art you can find.
It’s been created in order to create awareness for animal rights especially for stray cats (and dogs) in Penang. The mural is huge and great for pictures, so make sure to visit!
13. Ice Cream Cone With Melting Flowers
Seeking out interesting street art is one of Lola‘s biggest motivators to travel the world. She loves the way the art form is used to communicate the local way of life, culture, and political views.
Penang has an abundance of fascinating murals, so it’s hard to choose a favourite. However, the mural that brought her the most delight, and is a bit off the typical street art tour path, is this gorgeous ice cream cone that’s full of melting flowers.
Found on the wall of B Street Hotel, if you stay here, you can enjoy this Penang street art mural every time you leave the hotel.
14. Hoola Hoop Basketball
Another fun street art in Penang that Alex found is this Hoola Hoop Basketball. A classic photo here is to photograph yourself while “playing” basketball with the children. You can also pretend that you’re jumping and dunking the basketball.
This one is located in a small alley that you will find on Chulia Street. It’s on the other street of the alley where you’ll find the artwork of the children on the swing – Step by Step Lane. If you walk on Chulia Street in the direction towards the waterfront you will find it on the right-hand side of the street, but you have to look carefully into the alley so you don’t miss it!
While George Town has most of these street art, the popularity of street art in Penang has surpassed the boundaries of the historic centre and now exists in almost every nook and cranny.
So stick around, and venture beyond dingy lanes – Penang’s street art will offer you a wealth of surprises.
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