Maria's son with Munch's The Scream
Maria's son with Munch's The Scream
The awesome T. rex
The awesome T. rex
Finally getting to touch and make with Lego in the Interactive Zone
Finally getting to touch and make with Lego in the Interactive Zone

The Art of the Brick at The Old Truman Brewery in East London

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Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick arrived in London following its world tour of New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Shanghai and Singapore. According to CNN, the exhibition’s cult following has crowned it one of the ‘world’s 10 must see exhibitions’ and has already attracted millions of visitors worldwide. Kids in Museum News Editor, Maria Demetriou and her Lego-loving son visited to see what all the fuss is about.

Most kids grow up loving Lego. It’s a toy that has stood the test of time and has inspired generations of us and our children to design, build and create. Lego is a firm favourite in our household, so we were excited to see how the humble brick could be turned into a work of art.

Like most Lego-ers, the artist Sawaya started playing with Lego at an early age and has never stopped. . There are over 80 exhibits to see, using over one million Lego bricks in a style which merges Pop Art and surrealism. The exhibition is introduced with a short film by Sawaya where he discusses his inspirations and projects and provides a behind-the-scenes view of his meticulously organised studios. An audio tour is available but we opted to explore on our own. My son was given a comprehensive activity sheet with questions to answer as you view the exhibits as well as sections for drawing and colour matching activities.

The main exhibition works as a series of rooms, the first being Sawaya’s interpretations of some of the art world’s most famous masterpieces, including the Mona Lisa and Munch’s The Scream. The pieces are created flat and hung on walls, just as if you were looking at them in a gallery – it’s really impressive when you go up close and see exactly what went into making these famous pieces from Lego.

Sawaya builds big. He creates human figures, faces, features and giant hands. One of the most impressive pieces is a swimmer which has been created on a glass table and if you look at it at the right angle the swimmer looks 3D. The highlight of the exhibition, however, is the T-Rex. It’s huge, made from over 80,000 bricks and measuring over six meters in length.

Sawaya rarely mixes colours and likes to build to scale, so while it is fun to size yourself up against some of the human figures, the precision of everything does make the exhibit feel a bit serious. There’s also no touching, which is a challenge for younger visitors who are so used to playing with the brightly coloured bricks and you won’t find any cheeky Lego Minifigures here. This didn’t spoil my son’s enjoyment though and he was suitably ‘wowed’ by the experience – he couldn’t wait to get home to recreate some of the things he’d seen.

A big gold star goes to the final room of the exhibition. The Interactive Zone includes massive boxes of Lego, as well as Duplo for younger kids, videos and Lego computer games. It’s also where you’ll find the shop, which has a great selection of all things Lego from building sets and books to stationary and storage containers.

There’s no eating in the exhibition, but there are some picnic benches in the gallery lobby and plenty of places to eat in the immediate surrounding areas. There’s also a free cloakroom and buggy park.

Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick at The Old Truman Brewery, Loading Bay, Ely’s Yard, 15 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR until 4 January 2015. www.artofthebrick.co.uk

Adults: £14.50 (Mon-Thurs), £16.50 (Fri-Sun); Children 3-12: £8 (Mon-Thurs), £9.50 (Fri-Sun). Concessions and family ticket options also available.

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