We all know Penang for its amazing local cuisine and strong heritage. Think about char kuay teow, kuay kak (Chinese carrot cake), nasi kandar, and pan-fried oyster pancake. Mmm… Imagine all these food and a minute later, your stomach will start rumbling. Well, culinary is a kind of art too. But.. what else?
However, Penang is also known within locals to have the best art scene in Malaysia. One may assume that Kuala Lumpur might have the best art scene but that’s a myth that will be busted once you visit the sweet ol’Penang Island.
A young Lithuania-born artist, Ernest Zacharevic, completed a series of murals during the George Town Festival 2012. He became extremely famous in Penang thanks to his efforts of beautification of the city through his “Mirrors George Town” mural artwork. One of the favourite mural art made by him is Kids on Bicycle at Lebuh Armenian.
Other than the work of Zacharevic, Russian artist, Julia Volchkova, has added her mural paintings in 2014. One of her most famous mural artwork is the Wrinkled Old Fishermen in Balik Palau. However, a personal favourite is the mural of The Child, a depiction of an Indonesian boy living on the streets. This mural is located at Prangin Canal and is Julia’s first mural painting in Penang.
Whether you are standing on Lebuh Kimberley or walking down to Chew Jetty, you will be amazed by the beautiful artwork that is strategically painted on each wall.
Welded iron wall caricatures
Other than mural art around Georgetown, visitors will also witness welded iron wall caricatures. These caricatures represent historical facts with a blend of humor.
Pay some attention to what is stated by the iron weldings and you will learn more about Penang island’s history. These 52 welded sculptures also showcase the close bond that Penang-ites (local Penang people) share with one another in their daily lives. It is indeed one of the most culturally well-integrated states in Malaysia although it looks predominantly Chinese.
Penang Performing Arts CentreOr better known as Penang PAC, this performing arts center holds all kinds of monthly art events. From acting classes to Shakespeare’s play and film festivals, you can find it all on their website’s calendar. Some of the events are free!
The arts centre is located on the 4th floor of E&O’s Straits Quay retail development and marina. It occupies a space of 22,000 sq ft and is equipped with a 303-seater proscenium theatre (stage 1), 160-seater black box theatre (stage 2), 3 studios, 2 gallery spaces and other amenities such as production offices and box office. Space is wheelchair accessible and is open for visitors.
3H-3A-1, Quay One, Straits Quay,
Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Pulau Pinang.
+604 8991 722 / 2722
Monday – Friday (10am–6.30pm) | Saturday (10am–2pm)
Music is LIFE
Penang’s jazz scene is rather established compared to the rest of Malaysia. You will easily find pubs and cafes in Georgetown that has daily or minimum weekly live music. Check out Lebuh Chulia or Canteen@China House in Victoria Street to check out the live music scene.
An underground rock scene can be found in Soundmaker. It is tucked away on the first floor of a building at 62 Weld Quay. Soundmaker is both a performance venue and a studio where local bands can rehearse and record.
Him Bus Depot is one of the bigger music venues in Penang. There are no regular shows there but if there are any events there, they are usually events that will blow your mind. Chai Diam Ma is one of the smaller shops at Hin Bus Depot. It is a small art gallery-cum-cafe’. Chai Diam Ma often hosts songwriters and troubadours and is worth checking out.
Do visit the Penang House of Music for some interesting information on the history of music in Penang. The museum-like-gallery offers interactive explanations and carefully curated exhibitions. It is located in the ICT Mall, Level 3, KOMTAR. The Penang House of Music opens only on Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM – 7 PM.
Art is not limited to music, films, photography, and paintings. Art encompasses designs, which includes interior and exterior designs of buildings. Penang is World Heritage Site and its architecture is the reason for it to be famed as the Pearl of The Orient. Its architecture reflects the 171 years of British colonization as well as the integration of the main 3 races in Malaysia.
The Chinese influence can be seen at the Cheong Fatt Sze’s mansion. Indian Muslim influence is most dominant at Kapitan Keling Mosque. While Thai and Burmese influences can be seen at Burma Road, where visitors find temples built right opposite of each other. Where else, the colonial style can be seen at the City Hall and Fort Cornwallis.
George Town Festival
The city of George Town organizes art festival with the collaboration of local and foreign artists every year. This annual, month-long celebration of culture, heritage, art, and community has slowly attracted the eyes of the world to Penang.
If you do not already know, George Town is a designated UNESCO UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. Thus, the George Town Festival is a festival that transforms the city into a global stage as part of honoring the designation that was bestowed upon it.
This annual month-long festival showcases world-class performances, installations, and collaborations with international and local artists alike. Organizers and participants of the festival seek to create new and vibrant connections between the traditional and the contemporary —showcasing the past, present and the future. George Town Festival has become one of Asia’s must-see events and will continue to grow into a must-see global art event in the future.
In its ninth year now, the festival returns from August 4 until September 2, 2018. Click here to read more about this festival.
Museums and art galleries
Pinang Peranakan Museum. Image via Flickr.
There is no shortage of museums and art galleries in Penang. In fact, some of the best museums and galleries of Malaysia are located in Penang island. Some are not even known as museums but due to the number of antiques collected, they can be categorized as museums. Additionally, the increasing appreciation of both locals and expats towards art in Penang has attracted more artists to open their galleries in Penang.
Some of the must-visit museums of Penang are Penang State Museum, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Colonial Penang Museum, Khoo Kongsi, and Cheong Fatt Sze Museum. Where else, some favourite art galleries to visit are Jin Xiu Art Galley and Tribal Art Gallery.
Click here to read the comprehensive list of museums and art galleries in Penang.