Ernest Zacharevic, the man behind Penang’s world famous murals thinks the heritage area has become a ‘circus’, blaming himself for gentrifying the heritage area, and even considering whitewashing over his art to put an end to the crowds.
The Lithuanian artist had painted a series of murals – including the iconic Children On Bicycle along Penang’s Armenian Street – at George Town Festival in 2012, but did not realise his works would eventually become such crowd-pullers.
Speaking about the long lines of visitors waiting to take pictures with the murals, his recent July 2 Instagram post on @ernestzacharevic talked about how “the street has not been the same”.
Instead, the “quiet heritage street… has been replaced with souvenir shops, restaurants and all [kinds] of Insta-friendly [quirky] consumable concept stores to satisfy [the] ever-increasing traffic of holiday goers looking for ‘authentic Penang experience’.”
Zacharevic added that although painting over his work was an option, “the time where it would make any difference has passed,” as he says the artwork can barely be seen anymore. A more pressing issue at hand, is that this part of Georgetown is also at risk of losing its UNESCO statues due to “its failure to protect its culture, architecture and community”.
Calling for business owners to think twice before opening “another bubble tea shop or 3D art museum” in town, the artist also added how strict regulations should be in place “especially in culturally fragile places like Georgetown”.