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Saved by Street Art: Penang's New Lease on Life

Of the 1,031 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the planet, Penang manages to stand apart from its peers.

With commissioned murals adorning the historic Chinese shopfronts, Penang’s Georgetown is UNESCO's only World Heritage site to include the presence of contemporary street art alongside its wealth of traditional architecture. Places such as Hin Bus Depot have become hotspots for the town's growing street art scene, which has played a considerable role in revitalizing tourism to the island.

In 2012, Penang’s municipal council hired Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic to revitalize the facades of many Chinese shophouses in and around Georgetown. Since then, many other works of art – both legal and illegal – from many other artists have popped up all over the city. Visitors now seek out the island's colorful murals and Georgetown has even mapped out its most famous streetside artwork.

The combination of modern art and traditional Chinese architecture has created a unique destination which millions of tourists frequent every year, taking in the history and old-world charm of the storied island as well as appreciating its newfound status as a street art hub where both local and foreign artists capture the spirit of Penang through their artwork.


“Little Children on a Bicycle”. Ernest Zacharevic.

“Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur”. Ernest Zacharevic.

“Old Motorcycle”. Ernest Zacharevic.


Right: “Feed the Stray”. Kenji Chai.

“The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This”. Artists for Stray Animals' “101 Lost Kittens” project.

“I Can Help Catch Rats”. Artists for Stray Animals' “101 Lost Kittens” project.

“Lion Dance”. Artist unknown.

“Poh Hock Sea Ink Painting”. Artist unknown.


“Reaching Up”. Ernest Zacharevic.

Untitled. Disek.

Untitled. Disek.

Untitled. Clak.


"Child". Julia Volchkova.

Untitled. Mike Makatron.

Untitled. Ernest Zacharevic and Thomas Powell.

Untitled. Rone.

Untitled. Whatson. 

Untitled. Alex Face.

Untitled. Ernest Zacharevic and unknown artist.

[Top image: "The Indian Boatman". Julia Volchkova.]

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