The Art of the Brick


We took the girls to that hotbed of hipsterism, Shoreditch, on Saturday, to see The Art of the Brick, an art exhibition where everything is made from Lego.

Millie and Munch - The Scream
Millie and Munch – The Scream

I loved Lego as a child – hell, I loved Lego as a teenager! – everyone loves Lego, right? Show me someone who doesn’t love Lego and I’ll… Well, I’ll be disappointed.

Nathan Sawaya, who made all the models in the show, loves Lego, too, and he’s done an amazing job making the blocky limitations of those bricks into a plus rather than a minus.

There are recreations of famous works of art – statues and paintings alike. Up close, these look as disappointingly crude as you’d expect, but stand back a little and make the most of the powerful directional lighting and they look remarkable.

Halfway through, marvelling at how good some of the recreations are I realised Sawaya must have not only built the models but planned the lighting for each one. Seen under a plain overhead white light you’d lose a lot of the detail from each model, but by illuminating them from certain directions the light and shade work together to emphasise particular details in each model.

Lovely Melanie with Lego Cello
Lovely Melanie with Lego Cello

Less clever were Sawaya’s explanations that came with each piece. He really likes referring to himself as an Artist.

And while I enjoyed seeing Lego used so cleverly, enjoyed seeing it taken to places I could never have reached as a child, I’m not convinced it’s Art.

The accompanying captions, explanations and inspirational aphorisms would have embarrassed me when I was doing GCSE Art back in 1988, let alone as a grown-up today.

Should’ve let the Lego do the talking, Mr Sawaya. 😦

Seriously, if you get the chance to see The Art of the Brick (and I highly recommend it) then do yourself a favour and keep your eyes on the Lego.

Handy Amber
Handy Amber

At the end of the exhibition you’re invited to play with some Lego yourself – huge trays full of more Lego than I’ve ever owned. Millie and I dived right in, alongside plenty of other kids with their dads (but curiously few mums…). I built the space station I’d always wanted to, but lacked enough Lego to actually realise; Millie spent ages putting together a sort of Curiosity Mars Rover, and we put them both on display with some other splendid examples of audience participation.

More time was quite probably spent building our own models than looking at Nathan Sawaya’s!

Afterwards we went to Spitalfields Market and had Japanese food at Wagamama’s – my first time Wagamaming!

It was… Yeah, it was quite nice.

Lego Beatles
The Beatlegos

Finally, here’s one image from The Art of the Brick especially for my dad and Carter family uncles – the Lego Beatles!

All taken using my LG ‘phone, these images came out amazingly well considering you weren’t allowed to use a flash.

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