Book benches to take over London. Could L.A. be next?

Could benches in Los Angeles, like this one in Elysian Park, become tributes to books?
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

This summer, London will be invaded by dozens of book benches. Is this urban trend exportable? Like the cow parade that started in Sweden, which landed in Chicago and went to two dozen countries, or artist Luke Jerram’s 37-city piano installation Play Me I’m Yours, is the book bench poised to catch on? Could it happen here?

In Britain, the plan is to have dozens of book benches on display during the summer of 2014. Artists are being commissioned to design benches as open books. As these examples at the Guardian website show -- a sweet portrayal of “The Wind in the Willows” and an enervating envisioning of “1984" -- the benches are covered, so the art is prominently displayed.

The project is being organized by Britain’s National Literacy Trust as a fundraiser. It is seeking sponsors for the benches and will auction them after the 10 weeks’ display has concluded.

In addition to George Orwell’s “1984" and Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows,” books slated to b benched include “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen.


Those are all very British. When the city cow fad swept the globe, many municipalities came up with their own home-grown versions -- Los Angeles went with angels.

If L.A. were do create its own version of the book benches, what might they be? How about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon” looking over the Hollywood sign, or Walter Mosley’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” on Crenshaw Boulevard, or “Play It As It Lays” by Joan Didion, perched someplace where readers can watch the freeway traffic roll by?

In London the plan is to have 50 to 70 book benches installed in July for a 10-week display. The National Literacy Trust has a practiced partner in the project, Wild in Art, an organization that helped put together public art displays for the 2012 Olympics.



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