Nathan Sawaya (born July 10, 1973) is an American-based artist who builds custom three-dimensional sculptures and large-scale mosaics from popular everyday items and is best known for his work with standard LEGO toy bricks. His art creations are commissioned by companies, charities, individuals, museums and galleries all over the world.
Born in Colville, Washington and raised in Veneta, Oregon, Sawaya attended New York University, where he earned bachelors and law degrees, eventually practicing law at the firm Winston & Strawn in Hollywood.
He first came to national attention in 2004, when he left his job as an attorney to work full-time as a LEGO artist.
After working for the LEGO company less than six months, he branched off and in 2004 opened an art studio in New York City. As a professional artist, Sawaya is not an employee of the toy company, however he has been officially recognized by The LEGO Group as one of the best LEGO builders in the world and is endorsed as a LEGO Certified Professional. He is the only person ever to be recognized as both a LEGO Master Builder and a LEGO Certified Professional.
Sawaya's art creations include a 7-foot (2.1 m)-long replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, a life-size tyrannosaurus rex, a 6-foot (1.8 m)-tall Han Solo frozen in carbonite. His signature pieces include human form sculptures titled "Yellow", "Red" and "Blue". "Blue" sold for an undisclosed sum at the Agora Gallery in 2010.
He had his first solo art exhibit in the Spring of 2007 at the Lancaster Museum of Art. "The Art of the Brick" is the first major museum exhibition in the world to focus exclusively on the use of LEGO building blocks as an art medium.
Sawaya had his first exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere at Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia in June 2011. The exhibition since traveled around Australia, including stops in Adelaide and at the Sydney Town Hall.
In July 2012 Sawaya's Asian tour began with record-breaking shows in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. He has also exhibited at the world famous ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (November 2012 - May 2013) and Discovery Times Square in New York City (June 2013 - current). His tours have repeatedly broken attendance records and been widely acclaimed.
Under the name "brickartist", Nathan Sawaya has two projects open for support on the website Lego Ideas: Small Yellow and Oscar.
Sawaya keeps two, full-time working art studios - one in Manhattan and the other in Los Angeles. It is estimated that Sawaya owns more LEGO bricks than any other single individual with 1.5 million bricks in each of his studios.
In 2012, Artnet ranked Sawaya the 8th most popular artist in the world. His artwork is commissioned by collectors, athletes and celebrities.
Nathan Sawaya's work is in many collections, including:
- The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York
- Time Warner Center public art display in New York, New York
- The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia
- The New Orleans Public Library public art display in New Orleans, Louisiana
- MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts
And has been featured at museum venues worldwide, including:
- The Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences in Downtown Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
- Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah
- John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC
- Oregon Museum of Science & Industry in Portland, Oregon
- Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York
- Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey
- Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas
- Mesa Contemporary Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona
- Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Massachusetts
- Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas
- Crisp Museum in Cape Girardeau, Missouri
- Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio
- Art & Culture Center in Hollywood, Florida
- The Ambassador Theatre in Dublin, Ireland
- The Loading Bay Gallery in London, United Kingdom
Sawaya has also been featured on multiple media outlets including The Colbert Report, where he presented Stephen Colbert with a life size replica of Stephen Colbert; CBS’s the Late Show with David Letterman; NBC’s Today Show; TBS's Conan; ABC’S Jimmy Kimmel Live!; Newsweek; the Los Angeles Times; Hollywood Reporter; CNN; and The Wall Street Journal. In April 2009, he was a consultant on Mythbusters.