We were lucky to get to see the awesome Lego Art of the Brick exhibit when it came to San Diego in four months in late 2016/early 2017. This traveling exhibit features over 100 Lego art pieces built by artist Nathan Sawaya. We were skeptical of going because 1) it was expensive ($25 kids 12 and under, $30 ages 12+) and 2) really how good can a bunch of Lego art sculptures be. The answer surprised us and our group ages 9 to 50 were pretty much all blown away. This is an art exhibit kids will love.
The exhibit took place in the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park (until late 2016 known as the Reuben H Fleet Science Center) . The Fleet Center is San Diego’s entry into the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). We note this because we strongly urge visitors to the center to get a membership to either the Fleet or their local ASTC museum. A family membership for 2 adults and up to 6 children under 18 is $109. The beauty of this membership is it also gets you into ATSC member museums all over the country and even the world. The full list is here but you can bet there is a museum near you that you can join. For the Lego exhibit a membership got us discount entry of only $10 a person. So our 3 adults and two kids paid $50 versus the $140 we would have paid without the membership. That savings alone almost covered the cost of membership.
As our children have started to enter their tween and teenage years we have upgraded to the Balboa Explorer Park Pass. At $229 a year for 2 adults and 4 children this is twice as much as the Fleet annual pass. However, it gets you into 16 Balboa Park museums. Visitors to San Diego can look into getting a 7-day Balboa Park Explorer Park Pass for $57 adults, $30 children age 3 to 12. This pass allows for unlimited admission to all museums for 7-days. This is a much better deal than a one-day pass which is $46 adults/$27 children and only allows access to 5 museums.
Another option is to get a Go San Diego Card. This allows visitors access to up to 40 attractions for either 1,2,3,5 or 7 days. Note Costco often offers a 4-day pass that costs about the same as the 3-day pass. This is not a cheap option and we would only recommend it for 3 days or more where it is $209 adults/$189 children age 3 to 12. A 7-day pass is a very good value at $299/$269. The 3-day or more passes include admission to the very big attractions like SeaWorld and Legoland. If you do get a Go San Diego Card it is very possible to do the San Diego Zoo, a 5-minute walk from Reuben H Fleet, and other Balboa Park museums in a single day. This, of course, would be a very full-day.
We strongly suggest one of the above options. Frankly, without a membership or discount, we think the Fleet Center is overpriced. Note, with most of the options you still need to pay extra for the special exhibits.
The Lego Exhibit
The exhibit took up over half of the second story of the center over several rooms We ended up spending more time than planned because there was so much to see. The first room had Lego recreations of famous paintings like Starry Night and American Gothic. This was followed by famous sculptures such as Michelangelo’s David. The heart of the exhibit was Sawaya’s original pieces, including his most famous piece, Yellow, made from over 11,000 Legos. Basically it is a torso of a man ripping his stomach open to show yellow bricks coming out (the entire sculpture used yellow Legos).
There are a lot of activities for the kids to do. At the beginning of the exhibit they are given a book with things to look for in each of the rooms, basically a scavenger hunt. Several of the pieces involved optical illusions that took awhile to figure out. In one of the last rooms there are a series of photos and in the center of the room are Lego sculptures of objects from the photos. This was part of a collaboration with photographer Dean West that is really its own separate project. Visitors have fun trying to match the objects with the photos. The biggest pieces is a 20 foot T-Rex dinosaur made from over 80,000 Legos. The final piece is a large forest with Lego people hugging the trees. Kids are encouraged to join in this one and hug their own tree.
Of course, whether this art is debatable but it is clear the show has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. The New York Times liked it. The U.K.s Independent said: The Art of the Brick is simultaneously dumb and eerily thought-provoking. Our reaction didn’t find anything dumb about this considering we have seen a lot of so called art that seems a lot dumber. Overall it was just fascinating to see what one person could do with all these Lego bricks. We agreed more with the eerily Thought-provoking.
Because this is a traveling show and it may be awhile before it is near you. Through winter 2018 it will be in Seoul Korea, followed by Pittsburgh, PA and Rome, Italy the second half of 2018 into 2019. For a full schedule go here.
Photos From the Exhibition