Munch, Monet, Michelangelo, and more: High art through a LEGO lens

Sam Machkovech

Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is the latest home to Nathan Sawaya’s all-LEGO art exhibit.

  1. Sam Machkovech

    Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is the latest home to Nathan Sawaya’s all-LEGO art exhibit.

  2. Sam Machkovech

    Starry Night.

  3. Sam Machkovech

    The Second Chinese Horse.

  4. Modern art: now even more modern-looking.

  5. Sam Machkovech

    Nolde’s The Prophet.

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    The reflected light off of this stained-glass recreation cast a cool, colorful shadow below.

  7. This Mona Lisa version is easily twice the size of the real painting.

  8. Otherwise, much tinier LEGOs would have been necessary.

    Sam Machkovech

    Light placement appeared to be wholly intentional, resulting in some cool shadow moments.

  1. Sam Machkovech

    The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

  2. More detail.

  3. Sawaya sticks largely to default, primary LEGO colors, as opposed to specially painted ones. The results are striking.

  4. American Gothic.

  5. Another angle, this time with more pitchfork.

  6. A Jan van Eyck painting remade as a sculpture.

  7. Such dress detail.

  8. Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1.

  9. Face close-up.

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    The Scream.

  11. Screamier.

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    Can’t get enough of LEGO nubs.

  13. The 2D-to-3D conversions were all pretty rad.

  14. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.

  15. Zoom on the “kiss.”

  16. Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog.

  17. Now onto sculptures based on actual sculptures.

  18. Another angle.

  19. Such detail with only primary colors.

  20. Just as with the real David, LEGO David’s butt got a lot of attention from photographers.

  21. Degas’ Little Dancer Of 14 Years.

  22. The Gayer-Anderson Cat, found in Egypt.

  23. LEGO Thinker.

  24. More ancient sculptures.

  25. The exhibit’s intentional shadow work really impressed.

  26. Don’t worry, it’s not ivory—it’s just LEGO!

  27. Wonder if any tiny LEGO pharoahs were buried inside of this.

  28. Looking on pensively.

  29. Venus de LEGO.

  30. Another angle.

  31. PSC staffers told Ars that this giant MOAI statue was arguably the heaviest thing brought into the museum. None of the works are hollow, after all.

  32. Solid (LEGO) brick.

  33. The Moai piece had the most visible tape on its bricks, assumedly to keep this crazy-huge thing intact.

SEATTLE—We at Ars love a good piece of LEGO design, particularly the fare found at regional fan fests like BrickCon on an annual basis. But while those shows impress with pop-culture references and sprawling towns full of vehicles, spacecraft, ships, and villagers, they don’t typically include the kinds of original work or high-art references you’d expect to see at a museum.

Oregon-raised artist Nathan Sawaya, on the other hand, has made art out of LEGOs for years—and shown it off at art galleries across the world since 2007. The artist’s latest show, which we caught on its opening weekend in Seattle, continues to revolve around his original creations, which are included in the lower gallery (and will be familiar to anybody who’s attended a Sawaya show over the years). But his more recent work has revolved around LEGO recreations of classic paintings and sculptures, which you’ll see in this article’s upper gallery.

From Monet to Munch, and from Egyptian temples to politically charged Americana, Sawaya’s Art of the Brick collection crosses a ton of artistic movements off the LEGO list. You can see all of this and more at the Pacific Science Center until September 11.

Sam Machkovech

This Skeletor-looking sculpture, sadly, was the closest Sawaya’s exhibit got to anything in the way of pop culture.

  1. Sam Machkovech

    This Skeletor-looking sculpture, sadly, was the closest Sawaya’s exhibit got to anything in the way of pop culture.

  2. Sam Machkovech

    Still looks rad, though.

  3. Sawaya uses this tear-your-innards-out piece as the lead image in most promotional materials, and it’s easy to see why.

  4. This second gallery is made up entirely of Sawaya’s own creations—meaning, they aren’t based on pre-existing works of art.

  5. Sam Machkovech

    Unless, of course, you count the shape and structure of a T-Rex’s skeleton as “pre-existing art.”

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    This sucker is huge.

  7. My, what big LEGO teeth you have, T-Rex.

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    A quick swim.

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    Another angle.

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    “Where the heck are my hands?!”

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    “…AND MY EYES?!?!?”

  12. Apple, apple.

  13. More apples.

  14. Lots of detail for a little, gray desk.

  15. Attendees really loved the giant pencil (which was a motif in many other Sawaya works).

  16. Even the frame is made of LEGOs.

  17. The eyes of this face did NOT follow me as I walked around, thankfully.

  18. Close-up of the cool light-reflection effect off of the LEGO pieces.

  19. Many of Sawaya’s pieces spoke to a serious existential bent.

  20. The themes tended to be about being trapped…

  21. …or broken apart…

  22. …or in a box…

  23. …or held by invisible forces…

  24. (another angle of the hands)

  25. …or missing your entire freakin’ face.

  26. Sup, dudes.

  27. “SKULLS.”

  28. Pretty fish!

  29. More pretty fish.

  30. Notice this woman is wearing a LEGO dress.

  31. As in, THIS dress.

  32. Another angle. This room was dedicated to other photo shoots that included LEGO approximations of real-life objects like towels, clouds, umbrellas, and more.

  33. Sam Machkovech

    An exhibit video includes footage of Sawaya building pieces from scratch.

Listing image by Sam Machkovech

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