After the food, the George Town street art in Penang, is one of the most compelling and enjoyable aspects of a visit. It’s free, it’s cultural, and it’s fun! The street art is scattered throughout George Town, on major thoroughfares, down small alleys, and sometimes even inside businesses.
George Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, and the following year the city council initiated a project called Marking George Town to help generate awareness of the history of the streets. This project featured caricatures constructed of welded iron, that are scattered throughout George Town and generally are specific commentaries on the particular street, building or immediate neighborhood in which they are located.
Following on the success of that project, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was then commissioned in 20012 to create Mirror George Town, a series of murals. These murals often take advantage of specific aspects of the architecture around them (windows, doors, etc) and incorporate sculptural elements as well. The murals have attracted widespread attention and have become a destination themselves.
Other artists have added their own contributions to the vibrant street art, some in an official capacity, and others independently. The line between graffiti and sanctioned street art can get rather blurry here. In addition to the above two, the other major series 101 Lost Kittens is a collection of 12 cat-related aimed to foster awareness of stray animals.
There are many free maps available from hotels, cafés and shops around George Town that have many of the most famous pieces marked, and some feature a walking tour around one or more of the series. I hate following tours and itineraries, so we tackled them in our typical flâneur fashion, aimlessly wandering the streets and discovering them on our own. To me, there is far more enjoyment this way; following a map robs you of the excitement and surprise of rounding a corner or heading down an alley and suddenly stumbling upon an iconic mural.