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The art world goes to Legoland

19 May 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Constructive news from County Durham, where the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle is gearing up to open an exhibition devoted entirely to the art of… Lego. Opening on 25 May, the show will feature a host of intricate models created from the colourful bricks, alongside Lego recreations of items from the museum’s collection and dedicated areas in which visitors will have the chance to create their own, erm, masterpieces.

Though the Bowes is usually a redoubt of fine and decorative art, its current choice of exhibition material might not be as odd as meets the eye: indeed, Lego is all the rage in museums of late. The Horniman Museum in London, for instance, has made the plastic bricks a cornerstone of its 2019 programme, exhibiting more than 50 models made of the stuff – including a Lego recreation of its famous stuffed walrus. Elsewhere, museums across the USA have been eagerly displaying the Lego sculptures of artist Nathan Sawaya, who works exclusively in the medium.

Lego’s involvement with the art world has not been without its mishaps, of course. Back in 2015, Ai Weiwei accused the Danish toymaker of censoring him after it refused to send him an order of blocks to create new work, claiming (said the artist) that it could not ‘approve the use of Legos for political works’. Following protests, the company overturned its bulk-order policy – and Ai has since used the blocks to create portraits of missing Mexican students.

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