Updated: Dec 17, 2019
In 2012, the first official sets of street arts popped up in Georgetown, Penang. They are not graffiti but creatively-fun murals that are reflections of life in the old town. These are the masterpieces of Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist based in Penang. The murals draw crowds of locals and tourists to them and induce great vibrancy into the old Chinatown.
The success of Penang street arts triggered a chain reaction throughout Malaysia and street arts started flourishing in major towns and cities like Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca — but mainly restricted to tourist areas, particularly the historical towns. Singapore, a state that has zero tolerance for graffiti, also follows suit and approves projects to create street arts in preserved ethnic quarters and estates with pre-war structures.
If you are wondering what is the difference between "graffiti" and "street arts", the former is illegal both in Singapore and Malaysia while street arts are sanctioned. In other words, permissions from relevant authorities are required before work on any "street arts" can commence. Anyway, most people have difficulties understanding graffiti as they are usually words — and often regarded as vandalism — while street arts are normally pictures that can be easily understood.
Below are my collections of street arts from Singapore, to major towns and cities in Malaysia that use them to promote tourism, and finally to Penang island, the place that kick-started the whole street art frenzy in both countries. My list is not comprehensive and more will be added when I discover more artworks in my travels.
Follow me on my journey to hunt down the street arts in both Singapore and Malaysia.
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