curated by the neighborhood, this book shelf illusion features 8 languages and cultures

curated by the neighborhood, this book shelf illusion features 8 languages and cultures

a public artist, neighborhood activist and tattoo shop-owner, named jan, wanted to bring smiles to a neighborhood and a grant in utrecht allowed him to do so. the mural almost ended up as a giant smiley on the wall, but after analyzing the facade, and speaking with friends and neighbors, jan knew what to paint. no political books, no religious books — those were the only rules. 

book shelf illusion
all images courtesy of jan is de man



jan’s portfolio works of murals and public art pop gently off walls, to wave at the viewer, like kinder forms of graffiti that anyone can appreciate. it’s important to jan that everyone surrounding a piece might feel included, so he went around and asked locals of this facade to name a book — not political or religious — that makes them smile. curated by the neighborhood, this illusionary book shelf features 8 different languages and cultures. along with the books, the artist hides smiley faces and his signature, ‘JAN IS DE MAN.’

book shelf illusion



at the end of the day, jan’s main intention was bringing people together and so far it seems to have done so. the neighborhood where this work is made is filled with different cultures. and I’ve noticed that this project brought (and hopefully for as long as it lasts) people together without pushing it. they meet each other through books. regardless of the differences in cultures, regardless of the differences in political point of views. regardless of being extreme right or extreme left,’ jan says, ‘and by being well read, I think, you will have a lot less definite opinions. your mind will be more open for differences, I believe.’

curated by the neighborhood, this book shelf illusion features 8 languages and cultures curated by the neighborhood, this book shelf illusion features 8 languages and cultures

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    art news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    503,123 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample
    designboom magazine