This traveling exhibit features more than 90 sculptures and two-dimensional works by LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya.
Words and photography by Rachel Simon
A lot of people can say they enjoy playing with LEGOS every now and then, but very few can say they’ve turned that hobby into an internationally acclaimed artistic career. Nathan Sawaya did just that, famously leaving a plum law position in Los Angeles nearly two decades ago to open a LEGO art studio, full of enormous, intricate sculptures made entirely with the iconic bricks. And now, an exhibition of Sawaya’s work, The Art of the Brick, has come to Raleigh, featuring over 90 pieces of art and a whopping one million LEGOs.
At a media preview for the event on Wednesday, May 17 (one day before the exhibit opened to the public), WALTER magazine got a first look at the now-49-year-old artist’s incredible creations, which range from a replica of Edvard Munch’s The Scream to a nearly 20-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex. Throughout the many halls of the 30,000-square-foot Pleasant Valley Promenade (previously used to hold the popular immersive Van Gogh experience that ran last fall and winter), you can find stunning LEGO creations hand-made by Sawaya, including many that subtly combine the bricks into photography and other art forms to create truly eye-catching, unique designs. Perhaps even more impressively, all of the artworks were delivered to the space glued together and fully formed.
“One of the things about Sawaya’s work is that from the playful stuff to the most challenging subjects, he makes it approachable,” said John Zaller, the executive producer for Exhibition Hub, the company that brought Art of the Brick to Raleigh and other cities around the country. “Working in LEGO as his medium immediately makes it more relatable, and that’s a very special part of the overall experience,” Zaller added.
Zaller and his team decided to bring the exhibit to Raleigh due to the city’s “great appreciation for culture,” he explained, as well as its family-friendly feel. While Art of the Brick is largely aimed at adults (not many kids are likely to truly appreciate a LEGO version of Rodin’s Thinker, no matter how impressive), there’s a room at the end geared specifically for young ones, with two large LEGO-filled pools and stations for designing your own LEGO figurines. And of course, there are plenty of LEGO products and merchandise for sale, aimed at fans of all ages.
Art of the Brick will run through the end of August (with the possibility of an extension depending on popularity), and Zaller said he predicts at least 100,000 people to come through the doors. After all, he said, “it’s a world class blockbuster that’s gotten hundreds of thousands of people in other cities, so we expect to see a lot of people turn out for it here.”
Just don’t wait long to buy your tickets — while there are currently plenty of spots available on the exhibit’s website, Zeller said that they’re going fast, particularly for weekend appointments, and he recommended booking far in advance. You’ll want to allot about an hour to get through the halls (more if you have LEGO-lovers who will happily lose themselves in the brick pits). Prices start at $13.90 for kids 4-12 (those under 4 are free) and go up to $38.90 for adults who opt for the Premium Flex VIP package, which ensures immediate entry at any time on the date you choose, as well as a poster.
Whether you go alone, with a few friends, or with the whole family, Art of the Brick won’t disappoint. “It’s one of our favorite shows that we produce,” said Zaller, “because it’s so spectacular, and there’s something for everybody.”
This article was originally published on waltermagazine.com on May 25, 2023.