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Image Credit: ColetteFu's Pop-up Books, Facebook

10 Pop-Up Books That Are Works of Art

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Image Credit: ColetteFu's Pop-up Books, Facebook

We often think of pop-up books as a simple way to entertain the little ones (or at least we did before the iPad came along!) but they can be so much more than that. When done well, pop-up books can be engaging, imaginative, and even works of artistic brilliance.

1. Haunted Philadelphia

Paper engineer and photographer Colette Fu is an award-winning artist whose 36- by 53-inch pop-up series Haunted Philadelphia features paper interpretations of haunted historic sights around the city like Boathouse Row (pictured above). On her portfolio, Fu explained that she included "Male statues representing 'diversity and achievement of a mature nation...the Laborer, the Poet, the Preacher and the Scientist'" and "images of restrained female mannequins at the Gore Psychiatric Museum" into the full spread.

2. This Book is a Planetarium

Image Credit: Adobe TV

Among Adobe's 2015 Creative Resident Kelli Anderson’s many projects is This Book is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions. The book has a number of interactive features including a working musical instrument and a fully functional mini planetarium

Image Credit: Adobe TV

Adobe filmed Anderson in action, showing off this book and her other equally innovative projects. The Creative Residency enables two artists to spend a year pursuing their craft by providing them with the resources and financial aid they need to bring their ideas to reality. Residents also speak at conferences and give workshops. 

3. The History of Lacoste

Image Credit: Lacoste screenshot

Debuted in 2010, Claude Foulquier and Septime Creation's project is an interactive, digital pop-up book that tells the history of René Lacoste and the famous brand he founded. While it’s not a tactile object, it still incorporates the components of an actual paper pop up book, like little tabs to pull to reveal hidden features. The digital book has been taken off Lacoste’s website, but you can still see parts of it here.

4. The Pop-Up Book of Phobias

Image Credit: josdoming, YouTube

Looking at Gary Greenberg, Balvis Rubess, and Matthew Reinhart’s The Pop-Up Book of Phobias doesn’t quite count as immersion therapy, but it’s a start. Each page is an eerie illustration of a different common phobia including dentophobia, claustrophobia, and arachnophobia. There’s a YouTube video of the book so you can get a sense of how it moves, but for a less time consuming alternative, you can also skim through these pictures.

5. Everyday Wonders

Image Credit: Commercial Archive, YouTube

For Samsung’s 2013 Everday Wonders campaign, paper engineer David A. Carter created a full scrapbook of London as part of a promotional effort of one of the company's phones. The series included five promotional videos showing hand-made pop-up books of different notable cities—New York, London, Singapore, Amsterdam, and Milan—created at home by different paper artists. A press release from Samsung announcing the campaign explained that the goal was to "utilize the craft of paper art to detail in a simple, yet striking fashion the individual features and functionality of the device within the pages of a pop-up book." The videos were shown on prominent screens—like Times Square, for example—in each of the five cities. In a YouTube video, Carter explains his process for making the scrapbook. 

6. Pop-Up Art Book

Image Credit: The Art of Skinner, Facebook

Originating as a Kickstarter campaign from Poposition Press, the Pop-Up Art Book is a collaboration between pop-up book creators Rossten and Marc Meyer, graphic designer Kevin Steele, and six street artists. Each page features street art that’s been deconstructed, digitally cut, and rebuilt as a 3D paper representation. Artists included are Angry Woebots, kozyndan, Jim Mahfood, Junko Mizuno, Skinner, and Tara McPherson.

7. Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros 

Image Credit: Game of Thrones, Facebook

Fans of the HBO series can explore landscapes like King’s Landing in Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. Designed by Matthew Reinhart, the book was inspired by the show’s title sequence and has five full spreads, each with three to five mini pop-ups. The book folds open to unveil a full map of Westeros. A “pop-up review” and a full demonstration of the guide are available on YouTube

8. Moby-Dick: A Pop-Up Book

Image Credit: South Kensington Books, Facebook

Sam Ita's Moby-Dick: A Pop-Up Book tells an abridged version of the search for the great white whale. With multiple pop-ups per page, the book incorporates paper engineering with classic comic panels. Ita created similar books for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Frankensteinand The OdysseyA YouTube video from the Taiwan-based Pop-Up Kingdom provides a full demonstration of Ita's Moby-Dick. 

9. Il était une fois

Image Credit: Benjamin Lacombe, YouTube

Il était une fois (once upon a time), the 2010 collaboration between artists Benjamin Lacombe, José Pons, and author Jean Perrot, beautifully interprets eight classic tales such as Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Little Red Riding Hood. The animated book trailer is available on YouTube

10. Panties Inferno

Image Credit: Cult of Weird, Facebook

Peter Larkin's burlesque themed pop-up Panties Inferno may never get published. Not because it's too risque—there's a highly graphic Pop-Up Book of Sex, so nothing's off limits, really—but because publishers believe that it would be too costly to mass produce. However, some of Larkin's creations were published in The Paris Review, along with an interview with the 88-year-old four-time Tony-winning production designer

Over the last 20 years, Larkin has been combining his technical know-how with his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of burlesque to create and refine a number of drawings and mock-ups that—when arranged in the intended order—would take the reader through a full old-fashioned burlesque show. The idea wasn't to produce a dirty object. In the interview, he explains, "I really wanted to figure out how to make someone take their clothes off in a pop-up book. It's no good having them come off and then having to rearrange everything yourself." 

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Ape Meets Girl
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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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