George Town has been justly known for its street art ever since the explosion in murals that began in 2012. But Penang’s “indoor“ art scene was active long before that, and has become more vibrant in recent years, in parallel with the outdoor variety. Here are the most notable galleries to visit to give you a feel for the local art scene.
The Art Gallery
The Art Gallery opened in 1989, although it closed in 2002 following the death of Mrs Tan, one of the proprietors, and was re-opened in 2013, now managed by her daughter Ee Lene. The Art Gallery specializes in works by the Pioneer Artists, the earliest Malaysian painters, about which Dato’ Dr Tan is a renowned expert and author. It also holds exhibitions four times a year, showing the recent works of contemporary Malaysian artists and mini-retrospectives exhibitions of local artists who have been painting for at least 15 years, to show how their works have evolved
The Art Gallery can be found at 68-4-8, Bellisa Row, on Jalan Burma in Pulau Tikus. During exhibition periods, it is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm until 5pm. At other times, viewing is by appointment. Contact 012 6041434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Galeri Seni Mutiara
Galeri Seni Mutiara, located in a renovated shop house in the heart of the George Town heritage zone has been operating since 2005. It is owned by Mr Koay Soo Kau, himself an eminent local artist who exhibited his own works regularly in the 1980s and 1990s. His vision for the gallery is to promote Malaysian artists, not only by exhibiting their work, but also by bringing in overseas artists for the cross-fertilisation of ideas and influences, so that local art will continue to progress.
A new exhibition is held every month, with the opening almost always on the second Sunday of the month at 6pm. Galeri Seni Mutiara is located at 118 Armenian Street, and is open daily from 11am until 6pm. Contact details are: 04-262 0167 and email@example.com.
The a2 Gallery was founded in 2007, also by local artists, Alfred Yeoh & Jeff Janse. It is located in a house in the beautiful row of black and white houses on Bangkok Lane in Pulau Tikus. The artists’ own work is on display in the gallery, and they also hold exhibitions of other contemporary artists a few times a year.
a2 Gallery is located at 27 Bangkok Lane and is open from 10am until 5pm daily. Contact details are: 016 490 7320 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art Space at China House
The China House complex of bars, restaurants, shops and performance spaces opened its doors in 2011. The Art Space, upstairs, holds regular exhibitions, usually of the works of emerging young Malaysian artists. China House is located on Victoria Street and the gallery is open from 10am until 10pm. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Daiichi Art Space
Daiichi Art Space is the George Town representation of Daiichi Modern Art Gallery, which was founded in 1998 is to promote art and aesthetics development in Malaysia. The Penang branch opened in 2016, and holds regular exhibitions by well-regarded Malaysian and international artists. It is located at 25 Jalan Argyll and is open from 1pm until 6pm daily except Mondays. More information on their exhibitions can be found on their Facebook page and website.
Hin Bus Depot
A truly unique contemporary art space, Hin Bus Depot opened in early 2014, with an exhibition called “Art is Rubbish is Art”, which set the tone for what was to follow. Ernest Zacharevic, whose works began the street art revolution in Penang, contributed several murals to the walls of the partially renovated art-deco building’s grounds for this exhibition, and these remain an important backdrop to the ambience of the enchanting space. The high ceilings and outdoor space lend themselves to showcasing progressive artists, artworks and artforms. Within the complex you will also find restaurants and bars, a yoga studio, another gallery and a wood-work studio.
Hin Bus Depot is located at 31a Jalan Gurdwara and is open Monday to Friday 12pm until 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am until 9pm. More details are available at www.hinbusdepot.com or from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbara Moore Gallery
Canadian artist Barbara Moore opened her gallery in a small shop house in a quiet residential lane in George
Town in 2014. True to the original design of the shop house, she and her husband, Mike, live above the gallery, and Barbara works there on her paintings, which reflect her lifetime of travel. There are no set opening hours, so if the door is closed, you need to ring the “ship’s bell” on the wall or phone 0164673207 for an appointment. The gallery is located on Lorong Toh Aka.
Keeni Kessler Gallery
Another fairly recent addition to the wave of new galleries in Penang, the Keeni Kessler Gallery opened in 2015. Its mission is to be a creative meeting place to showcase all form of creativity (fine art, visual and multi-media art, video and films, photography, innovative design, fashion, written and spoken words, music and performances) and for people to engage with, learn from each other. It holds regular talks and exhibitions. It is the local stakeholder in of PingHub, a platform through which artists from around the world connect with each other. www.thepinghub.com for more information.
The Gallery is located at 21 Nagore Road. Opening hours vary according to the exhibition, so check 014 250 6292 or Kessler.email@example.com for the current schedule.