This artist built a Christmas book tree with 14,000 books

We’ve seen many takes on the traditional Christmas tree, but this one takes the cake, especially for bibliophiles. American artist Mike Stilkey created a tower of books for the COEX Starfield Library in Gangnam, Seoul. Yes, it’s a Christmas book tree; if only our living room was big enough for this.

COEX Starfield Library Book Tree
Photo: Mike Stilkey

The tower is a three-sided structure, reaching as high as 25.5-feet. He used almost 14,000 books, on which he painted whimsical Christmas-themed illustrations. There’s one with Santa Claus and a humanoid reindeer sledding down a hill! The whole project took him about two months to complete.

“This is the biggest installation I’ve done,” Mike told us. “I stack and paint the books here in my studio in Los Angeles. I then number, pack, and ship them. I will then reassemble them on site.”

COEX Starfield Library Book Tree
Photo: Mike Stilkey

Mike is known for drawing on big stacks of vintage books as a way of giving discarded books a second chance, and has had his work displayed all over the world.

“I love books! I have always been a collector of books. I love the smell of them, the feel, and the fact that you can get lost it them, books are amazing,” he said. “My paintings are an expression of my wry sense of humour and my take on everyday life. I love exploring the relationship between animals and humans portraying imagined situations depicting them as characters. Style wise, I’ve heard it described as reminiscent of Tim Burton, Egon Schiele, and Toulouse Lautrec – thanks, guys!”

COEX Starfield Library Book Tree
Photo: Mike Stilkey

Starfield Library is located in COEX Mall, the world’s largest underground shopping mall. The 2,800sqm haven for book lovers consists of three huge 13m-tall bookshelves filled with over 50,000 books and magazines. You could say it was the perfect project for the artist.

“I tend to reread books I love many times,” Mike said. “Three titles I keep close to my heart are The Stranger by Albert Camus, This is It by Alan Watts, and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.”

COEX Starfield Library Book Tree
Photo: Mike Stilkey

This Christmas book tree is already pretty huge, but Mike hinted that he doesn’t plan to stop there: “I might possibly have an even bigger installation in South Korea, time will tell!”

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Andrea Tim

Andrea is a serial kopi peng drinker (for fun, not for the caffeine; coffee doesn't wake her up) and believer in keyboard shortcuts. She sees The Dress as blue and black, and hears both Yanny and Laurel. Make of that what you will.

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