Vermeer’s Girl with a Lego Earring in Amsterdam

Childhood memories, art and engineering come together in the new Lego exhibition in Amsterdam, writes Ana McGinley.

Ever wondered what Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring would look like if it was created out of Lego? How about Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Michelangelo’s David or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa?

Opening in Amsterdam this week is The Art of Brick – an exhibition showcasing the work of American artist Nathan Sawaya, an ex-corporate lawyer, who has successfully tackled these artistic challenges in his chosen medium – Lego bricks.

Childhood

The exhibition is an amazing mix of childhood memories, artistic talent and engineering prowess. Sawaya owns over four million Lego pieces, arranged by colour and housed in one of two studios based in New York and Los Angeles.

Like many people, Sawaya was five years old when he was given his first Lego set, which he opened and immediately assembled a house.  Later, he claims to have made himself a Lego lifesize dog when his parents refused to buy him a pet.

The Art of Brick showcases 75 works constructed from over one million Lego bricks.  The exhibition includes a self portrait of the artist, a T-Rex dinosaur measuring 6 metres and made from 80,020 Lego bricks, and numerous replications of famous paintings, sculptures  and photographs.

All pieces have been made by Sawaya, including the gluing together of the bricks to give the artworks permanency and to make transportation of this internationally touring exhibition possible.

Rectangular bricks

For the most part, Sawaya uses the basic rectangular brick and restricts his 3D pieces to a single colour scheme.  He explains this fascination with creating art from a single shape thus: ‘I love seeing how curves can be made out of rectangles.’

Lego creator, Ole Kirk Christiansen, started producing the bricks as an addition to his wooden toy business in 1932.  The Danish carpenter and his son Godret Kirk became inspired by the works of Hilary Fisher Price, a British child psychologist, who made interlocking plastic bricks for children.

The father and son team produced their own version of the interlocking bricks and launched their own company Lego, the name derived from the Danish ‘leg godt’, which translates as ‘play well’.  As of 2013, approximately 560 billion Lego pieces have been made.

The exhibition

Rated as one of the world’s 10 must-see exhibitions by CNN, visitors can marvel at The Art of Brick exhibition from 29 May until 14 September 2014 at Amsterdam EXPO.

In addition to the exhibition, younger visitors are invited into the Play Zone to explore their own Lego construction skills and creativity.  Tickets are available at the exhibition centre or via www.amsterdamexpo.nl

In the meantime if you are in Amsterdam look out for Hugman, Sawaya’s contribution to street art.  Hugman is a yellow Lego sculpture created from 273 pieces, who has been seeing hugging streetposts, bicycle stands, fences – around the world.