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Armenian Street Urban Renewal


THE INNER CITY OF George Town has shed its shame of neglect and decay, the ramshackle pre-war shop houses are now rejuvenated and revitalised. The urban renewal came in the form of murals and wire art giving a fresh breath of life and transforming the public’s acceptance of street art.

Stilt houses turned cafe at Chew Jetty
Stilt houses turned cafe at Chew Jetty

Today, social media addicts flock to Penang with a sole mission to hunt down Murals and Street Wire Art. From the famed “Little Children on a Bicycle” mural at Armenian Street, newbies and wannabees have taken over the peeling walls and stucco in a quick succession that never fails to thrill and leave a lasting impression on locals and tourists.

Art and all at a bicycle shop. It's all happening at Armenian Street
Art and all at a bicycle shop. It’s all happening at Armenian Street
3D Mural at a temple on Armenian Street
3D Mural at a temple on Armenian Street

These murals have injected life to new businesses with bicycle rental, quirky little cafes, souvenir shops and museums sprouting in its wake.

The entire Armenian Street enclave going up to Beach Street and turning to the Esplanade and right up to the Clan Jetties is alive and “crawling” with tourists peddling and walking around, boldly venturing into back lanes and alleys to search for the “hidden” murals.

An activity unheard of in the past, George Town has become incredibly friendly to walk around and café hop until late at night.

Good art or bad art?

More importantly is the mural’s ability to connect people together and build up a sense of ownership and pride in the local community now seen as “guardian” of these works.

It's Spidey!
It’s Spidey!

Did you know that according to Time online’s survey using photos downloaded from Instagram with geographic coordinates and tagged “Selfie” showed that there are 95 selfie-takers per 100,000 people in George Town, ranking Penang as top 10 Selfiest City in the World!

Now you know why throngs of tourists are queuing until late evening to take photos and post these on social media, Facebook and Instagram.

Taking photos even under dim light of night
Taking photos even under dim light of night


We talk to some mural lovers who share a photo of their favourite mural.

1Seow Boon Seong

Seow Boon Seong, 47, a civil servant from Singapore posed with “Little Children on a Bicycle” mural on the wall of a shophouse on Armenian Street, George Town. It was painted by London-trained artist Ernest Zacharevic, in conjunction with the 2012 George Town Festival.

Seow says, “It reminds me of my childhood in Penang, we used to cycle around to school. I even won a bicycle when I participated in a triathlon in Penang in my school days. At one glance, you can tell that it’s from Penang. I felt nostalgic when I saw the mural. I love Penang.”

1Bruce Lee

Besties Nurhannah Azman, 25 a wellness coach and Deline Lim, 25, a zumba instructor caught sparing at their favourite mural titled “The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This”.

This mural is found behind a building on Ah Quee Street, George Town and is part of the 101 Lost Kittens art project to create awareness to protect stray animals such as cats.

Nurhannah says “We found the Bruce Lee mural to be the best with the seriously high kick and funnily epic cat’s reaction. It was a spur of the moment for us. Monkey see, monkey do!


3 girls

Sarojini, 53, a freelancer peeks from behind her sunnies as she poses with the caricature mural of three girls in traditional costumes reflecting the three major races in Malaysia. This mural is at Soo Hong Lane on a bright purple wall.

Sarojini said cheekily, “Lookee here, I’m the middle angel, but where’s Charlie?” in reference to that 80’s television series, Charlie’s Angels.

1Subin Parambil

Subin Parambil, 28, Senior Design Engineer from India has been to all 50 murals and wire art scattered around George Town heritage site.

The ‘Kandar’ Sculpture celebrates Nasi Kandar, an Indian Muslim rice meal sold by vendors carrying the rice and curries on a long pole known as ‘kandar’. It was second in the series of wire art sculpture installed on Ah Quee Street, George Town, Penang.

Subin has this to say, “As an expat working in Penang, I never tire of visiting the Heritage Centre due to the uniqueness of the streetscape, museums, murals and street art. Some of these streets are so busy and lively. People love the murals so much that they are willing to queue patiently to take a photo for a happy memory!”

1Wire Art Lit up at night

Cartoonist Tang Mun Kian designed these wire art sculptures installed on the historic street of George Town based on design idea organized by the Penang State Government which his company Sculpture at Work won the first prize on 29 March, 2010.

1Dyan with Mouse

Dyan Khor, 19 a college student from San Diego, California was intrigued by the Cat and Mouse murals.

She says, “I liked how whimsical this mural was, such a large, yet friendly looking mouse. Its stance was so cute I just wanted to imitate it. Normally I’m not a fan of mice, but I found this mural to be very cute!”

13D Mural in Hammock Cafe

A recently completed commissioned wall mural painting for Hammock Cafe located at Lorong MacAlister, Penang


South Korean Illustrator and comic book artist Kim Jung Gi has set a new Guinness World Record for the longest drawing by an individual Fish Eye Art Illustration at Odeon – The Heritage Asylum, Penang

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