The iconic little bricks with locking pegs and holes have long enjoyed a secure place in toy boxes worldwide. More recently, collectors started displaying special-edition LEGO® sets featuring Star Wars, Harry Potter and other themes.
Now the colorful bricks have joined the world of fine art.
In Nathan Sawaya's "The Art of the Brick," the artist transforms this common child's toy into sculptures reflecting the human condition from whimsical to tragic and definitely thought-provoking.
On Friday, the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada opened an exhibit of 44 of Sawaya's LEGO sculptures, which will be on display through Aug. 19.
The museum is in fine company. Other pieces of "The Art of the Brick" are currently on display in Paris, France, and Melbourne, Australia, as well as Topeka, Kan. The exhibit rarely shows on West Coast, said Jim Peckham, executive director of the Children's Museum.
"Having it here is an opportunity for the whole region," he said. "Once you see it, it's amazing how precise it is. The kids love it, especially the ones 25 and older. The younger ones spend about 5 minutes, but the older ones stand mesmerized."
Unlike most Children's Museum displays, this one is hands-off but it's the type of exhibit that people who come will think "man I've got to tell my neighbors," he said.
The inspiration to try to bring the exhibit to Carson City began several years ago with a small hands-on traveling exhibit by the LEGO Group. It was so popular, the museum staff wanted to bring in something similar. While researching, they came across Nathan Sawaya's sculptures.
"Nathan's taking (LEGO sculpture) to the point that it's fine art," Peckham said.
Sawaya, on his website brickartists.com, says "The museum exhibition is accessible because it engages the child in all of us while simultaneously illuminating sophisticated and complex concepts. Everyone can relate to the medium since it is a toy that many children have at home. But I want to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before."
Grants from Partnership Carson City, Nevada Arts Council and Soroptimist International helped pay about two-thirds the cost of bringing the exhibit to Carson City. Peckham admissions to cover the rest due the popularity of the exhibit. And, it has the added bonus of introducing more people to the museum and drawing visitors to Carson City from the region.
"We found that LEGOs are a draw and his art is just amazing. It appeals to all age groups," he said. "Given that it's really not been on the West Coast at all, it provides a unique opportunity. It makes a lot of sense to bring it to the community. "