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Street art is actively promoted by the city of Penang as a tourist attraction. Many cities, especially those in Asia, consider graffiti on walls as an eyesore. If you like street art, don’t miss the links to our earlier posts on street art in other cities at the end of this post.

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It is not clear how it all started in Georgetown. According to a leaflet put out by the tourism board, several pieces were the work of a Lithuanian student – Ernest Zacharevic – who is an Honors student from Middlesex University in England (and not some punk, disaffected youth, after all this is being endorsed by the local authority).

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He is apparently a filmmaker, artist and photographer, temporarily residing in Penang. Many other artists have since added their efforts all over Georgetown.

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The most famous piece is probably this one on Lebuh Armenian – Kids on bike. It truly does depict the joy and thrill of riding. A crowd seemed to be there day and night and people were trying to pose in front of it, in the middle of the street, and without getting into each other’s photo.

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Several of the pieces incorporate a real object to complete the idea, usually a bike. Some are lit up at night.

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Like cute videos on the internet, cats seem to be a popular subject depicted on the walls here.

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Cat …

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and mouse (just round the corner)

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Bruce Lee vs cat (this piece is in extremely poor condition as the surface layer of the wall is coming off).

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The leaflet which contains a map and a photo of many pieces can be downloaded at http://www.tourismpenang.net.my/pdf/street-art-brochure.pdf.

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The leaflet also shows the location of more than 50 metal wire caricatures of people and situations. The pieces are essentially thin metal wires to form outlines of the characters and are installed in front of a light color wall. In my opinion, those caricatures feel like afterthoughts by the local government – they lack spontaneity and authenticity. We did not take any photos of them.

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The painted pieces are dispersed all over Georgetown and as a result, encourages tourists to run around trying to find them all.

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Some of them are quite hidden and some are not listed. It becomes a bit like a treasure hunt. Silly but fun, and effective to engage tourists.

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We remember moments of joy upon discovering an unlisted piece as we turned a corner or when we looked up.

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We have previously posted on street art in Los Angeles, New York and Sao Paulo.

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