Pop-Up Pianos is the stunning new art book by acclaimed photographer Lekha Singh, with essays by Sing for Hope Co-Founders Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora. With wit and poignance, it portrays New York City’s most beloved large-scale public art project.
Created by Sing for Hope as part of our mission of “art for all,” The Sing for Hope Pianos initiative featured 88 grands and uprights — one for each key on the keyboard — placed in parks and public spaces throughout New York’s five boroughs. The pianos were decorated by artists ranging from Isaac Mizrahi to Olek to public school children, and formed the world’s largest street piano installation to date. For two summer weeks, two million New Yorkers — stockbrokers, students, nannies, seniors — delighted in the pianos under the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Coney Island boardwalk, nestled among skyscrapers in Midtown, and in full view of the Statue of Liberty.
Lekha Singh traveled through all five boroughs to document the public revelry, and her result is an art book as expressive and colorful as the city it portrays. Singh, whose previous books include Call to Love: In the Rose Garden with Rumi, Bhutan, and The Making of An Activist, says, “Each piano sang a different song that harmonized with the diversity, fun, richness, grit and beauty of the city. My camera and I traveled around the world with the colors, people, music and 88 Pop-Up Pianos of New York City.”
In the book’s opening essay, Sing for Hope Co-Founders Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora describe some of the one-of-a-kind artworks: “Isaac Mizrahi’s hot pink glitter piano, ‘Hello Miss Piano,’ channeled, in his words, ‘the 12-year-old girl deeply rooted in my soul.’ The crochet artist Olek entitled her piano ’Imagine the Clouds Dripping,’ explaining that it was a meditation on NYC’s diversity via the expressive medium of 100% Red Heart Acrylic Yarn. BD Wong’s piano, which he dubbed ‘Sings Eternal,’ glowed in silver and purple hues and gave voice, he said, to his inner child who had been forbidden to touch the pristine parlor piano of his youth. ‘Play On,’ the piano by high school students from The Center for Arts Education, invoked the wisdom of artists who came before, reminding us in bold white-on-black letters that ‘Creativity takes courage’ (Henri Matisse) and ‘To be an artist is to believe in life’ (Henry Moore).”
New Yorkers have embraced the book as they did the pianos themselves. In the words of designer Diane von Furstenberg, “This book is proof of the incredible joy and freedom that can be experienced when an artist finds his or her voice.” Hugh Jackman raves, “This beautiful book is as alive as New York City itself. Singh’s photographs are compelling, and Yunus and Zamora’s words highlight the Pop-Up Pianos’ message of equality that underlies the summertime fun.” And Grammy-award-winning musician Alicia Keys says, “It’s things like this that make me extra proud to be a New Yorker, and this book really captures that spirit.”
Designed by award-winning art director Yolanda Cuomo and published in a luxurious edition by Damiani Editore, Pop-Up Pianos will delight and inspire art and music-lovers for years to come.