As explained in our profile of Sawaya, the NYU Law grad left Winston & Strawn for a $30,000-a-year job as a builder at LEGOLAND. Several years later, Sawaya is now a world-renowned LEGO artist, whose works sell for thousands of dollars.
So, what did we get to set our eyes on? And how did we like it?
KASH: Elie was out of town so couldn’t join us. Even if he’d been in town, though, he scoffed at the idea of LEGO art. He “doesn’t do art.” I do, and really enjoyed the exhibition, but I’m a bit skeptical about the idea of paying up to $11,500 for one of Sawaya’s pieces. I’d rather pay a couple of hundred dollars for a do-it-yourself Sawaya LEGO set.
LAT: I agree with you, Kash. The pieces were neat, but I wasn’t tempted to pull out my credit card. This was no Heller Ehrman art auction.
KASH: People were definitely engaged by the work, though. I frequently take advantage of Chelsea’s free art galleries, and I’ve never seen a gallery so crowded before nor filled with so many kids. If you’re a parent, it’s probably easier to get your kid excited about LEGO art than about Emily Dickinson’s Miraculous Year. And a subway ride to 25th Street is a lot cheaper than an airplane to California and tickets to LEGOLAND.
LAT: To say nothing of the original LEGOLAND, in Denmark. I visited it as a kid; it’s pretty cool. And pretty much the only thing to do in Denmark.
Well, what did you think of Sawaya’s sculptures?
KASH: The possibility of hokey-ness looms. I had to suppress a giggle looking at the price list and seeing the medium listed as “plastic bricks.” The most successful pieces in the collection plumb emotional depths. The pieces are a far cry from a Sponge Bob Square Pants LEGO figure. A LEGO man staring at his crumbled hands conveys confusion and sadness. A blue LEGO man holding a small grey figure invokes the sorrow, anguish, and composition of La Pietá.
LAT: The LEGO skulls actually reminded me of For the Love of God, the diamond-encrusted skull made by Damien Hirst, which he tried to sell for £50 million. At $10,000 for not one but four skulls, Sawaya’s skulls are a bargain!
Check out the slideshow below. Alas, pictures don’t do the sculptures justice. Interested in seeing Sawaya’s works for yourself — or perhaps acquiring one? Feel free to contact or visit Agora Gallery, on West 25th Street here in Manhattan.