01 July 2020

LEGO® Art: the new mosaic theme

Posted by Admin
A key new product line arising from the LEGO Group’s newly-enhanced focus on adult builders has just been announced: LEGO® Art. In short: mosaics packaged with a soundtrack, but if that concept or the selected subjects hold zero interest for you, keep reading anyway because there are a few new moulds of great interest to all builders, and fantastically useful recolours. Here is our rundown, gleaned from the press release as well as an online exclusive reveal event with creative lead Samuel Johnson that happened in May as part of Fan Media Days.

Coming 1 August 2020 (1 September in the US) the range comprises of four products each priced US$119.99/ CA $149.99/ £114.99/ DK 1099DKK/ €119.99 (Euro pricing varies by country). Sound pricey? Well, each contains on average 3,200 parts; about 3.75 US cents per piece. “A bargain, I tell ya!”, says Sam. Obviously the vast majority of the pieces are round 1x1s, including new and rare colours, but there’s also a new kind of 16x16 baseplate, a Technic element used for hanging the art and a new, wider brick separator!

What is LEGO Art?

First though, let’s run through the concept. The LEGO press release describes these as a “new canvas for creative expression… designed for adults who pride themselves on their love of pop culture”. Fancy words for what is essentially a paint-by-numbers mosaic, though of course more creative customers might be inspired to design their own.

Notably the pieces are round, not square, a design decision which seemed counter-productive to me at first but it does give them a stronger “Pop-Art” feel and a different style compared to (most of) the AFOL-designed mosaics you see. There’s another, very practical reason too: lining up hundreds of square 1x1 pieces is a nightmare (as anyone who has built 21010 Robie House will attest).

The subjects of the four sets are extremely varied but all carefully-chosen to target superfans who like collectables: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Marvel Studios Iron Man and Star Wars™ The Sith™. Sam explained the source material each is derived from: “The Warhol is based on the prints of the 'Marilyn' diptych, Iron Man is developed from screenshots from movies or artwork from Marvel, the Beatles are based on the photographs from the White Album and for Star Wars the artwork has actually been developed by Lucasfilm exclusively for this product line.” He also revealed the pixellation was designed “pretty much by hand” by the LEGO design team. “We will actually be continuing to produce this assortment for years and years to come, hopefully. So this is a brand new platform for LEGO, ongoing.”
 “Each product is slightly different, it doesn't follow the exact same formula for every product.” One difference is that the Warhol and Beatles sets use 1x1 tiles while the others use 1x1 plates. And these are either ‘3-in-1’ or ‘4-in-1’ sets, so each provides multiple designs that you can build one at a time. With the Iron Man set the three options are the MARK III, the HULKBUSTER MARK I or the MARK LXXXV and with the Sith set they are Darth Vader™, Darth Maul™ or Kylo Ren™.

As for the 4-in-1s, The Beatles set permits you to build one of the Fab Four at a time while the Warhol offers four different colour schemes. These multiple instructions are “to make it easy and simple for pop culture lovers to refresh the LEGO Art piece on display in their house”, according to the press release. Notably, the Beatles set features all four possible models on the front of the box which is understandable despite being a possible source of confusion and disappointment for the purchaser.

Then, for those of you with US$479.96/ £459.96/ €479.96 to spare, you can buy four Marilyns or Beatles to display all at once. Sci-fi lovers will need to fork out US$359.97/ £344.97/ €359.97 for either of the Marvel or Star Wars triptychs. Hopefully you don’t love all four of these icons equally! Personal preferences aside, I would say The Beatles design provides the greatest impetus to purchase multiples, although there is a clear reason for the Warhol set also. Iron Man and the Sith less so; a fact that I suspect TLG must have realised, as they added an extra goodie into the Marvel and Star Wars sets, as Sam explains: “If you buy three of them and think you really don't want to have these three on display anymore, you can actually take them apart and build one huge combined image. So this takes three boxes to build, but we do include the instructions online. And again, it is still super strong… even though it's the size of an ironing board!” Darth Vader is a vertical image while Iron Man is horizontal – another little product differentiation.

What are the new parts introduced for LEGO Art?

Hopefully we will get to review one of these sets for you, so we can analyse the new moulds properly, but here is an overview of what we know now.

I’m going to jump straight to the new wider brick separator because oddly enough this is the most thrilling to me! It is barely shown in the press kit pictures we received but you’ll all get the idea easily enough. Sam is excited too; “So we have a brand new LEGO brick separator, which is designed only for [LEGO Art sets] and it can remove up to four studs at a time, or six tiles at a time, or in winter is very good at scraping the ice off of your windscreen.”
Yes, it’s black! Very cool (and much easier for those who like to incorporate brick separators into their own models). The design is largely like the current brick separator but four modules wide at the tip instead of two. However the other end, used for removing tiles, widens out to six modules which makes the design feel like a hybrid of the previous and current brick separators. Essentially it’s the current orange/teal one on steroids.

The press kit does show the new baseplate, however not in as much detail as we may like so I will let Sam explain: “We also have a very exciting 16 by 16 brick, which has Technic holes in the sides, and is kind of hollow on the back. It is four plates high, kind of strange for LEGO. The reason is because we wanted to be able to attach the [hanging element] Technic connector on the back. So, we've allowed for the space of a brick. Also to give you enough space behind it for the screws sticking out the wall. Each product contains nine of these plates and they connect together in a tiled system so it's three by three for the squares. They're all joined together with Technic pins, and then we build the frame around the image which holds it together and they're really rigid, so they can hang on the wall.” The finished art is 40cm square.

This new baseplate – or base brick? – is definitely a POOP (Parts outta other parts), indeed I threw this together (in grey parts instead of black) to show you the general design of its underside:

Image © New Elementary

Which, if you then hung it on a wall sideways, would surely come apartimmediately. So for the stability this product requires, this new POOP version has been moulded. “For now, these elements are exclusive to LEGO Art,” Sam said, going on to indicate they probably wouldn’t be available on Bricks and Pieces or similar to begin with, perhaps due to production limitations (i.e. they’re big and as lot are already needed simply to go into the products).

The final new mould is the hanging element, which frustratingly is not pictured in the press kit at all. We did see it, however, during the Fan Media Days event and from memory it looks similar to a Technic panel of perhaps around 3x8 modules in size but with large holes that you can hook over a nail or a screw in the wall. Two Technic pins go in the top of the hanging element to attach it to the 16x16 bricks. Sam explains; “Each set includes two hangers but you don't necessarily need to use both to hang the product, it can hang with one. But, you know, you would hang a canvas with two, so we want to replicate that kind of feeling that you would get from hanging a canvas on the wall. We did rigorous testing on them, you know, pulling them off the wall and back on the wall, off the wall, on the wall… so, a lot of stuff done multiple times.”

There is no kickstand option at present.

There’s also an exclusive printed 2x4 tile in each set, featuring the appropriate logo or, in Marilyn’s case, a Warhol signature. “And we actually included enough studs to be able to not include it on,” Sam points out, “so you can actually just have it nice and clean, as an artwork, if you wish.”

Which 1x1 parts come in new colours in LEGO Art sets?

There are an amazing number of new 1x1 pieces introduced in new colours in these sets, I think even more than for LEGO DOTS. Some of the other provided colours are ‘rare’ in that they haven’t appeared in many sets, or in a very long time, resulting in shocking prices for them on the secondary LEGO parts markets which should soon collapse.

1x1 round plates

At the Fan Media Days event they recalled that there are seven new colours introduced of the 1x1 round plate, mostly required for the Sith. I suspect that number may include two colours that have been available in the past but had to be brought back into production.

Based on the images my guesses for the new ones are:

  • Dark Brown
  • Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan
  • The yellowish colour in Sith looks like Cool Yellow/ Bright Light Yellow to me
  • There is a light blue which looks like Sand Blue to me but I guess could be Medium Blue
  • There are a few orangey browns present and I always find these hard to distinguish but I think it is Dark Orange we are getting newly here. We already have this part in Medium Nougat.
Returning after a very long absence are:

  • Earth Blue/ Dark Blue, used only in two sets in 2003 & 2004
  • Dark Red, used in seven sets between 2004 and 2005

1x1 round tiles

Here, they recall there being nine new colours.

Marilyn has a suitably limited palette and so only brings us three new recolours of this part:
  • Bright Reddish Violet/ Magenta
  • Medium Reddish Violet/ Dark Pink
  • Medium Azure

The Beatles however are much more interesting:
  • Dark Brown
  • Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan
  • The yellowish colour looks like Flame Yellowish Orange/Bright Light Orange to me
  • There is a light blue again but this time it looks like Medium Blue to me rather than Sand Blue
  • Again there are a couple of orangey browns and Dark Orange is my guess
…okay I’ve run out at eight - can any of you spot another new colour?

What is the soundtrack that comes with LEGO Art?

“So, similar to what Technic have been doing in the past,” explains Sam, “we have a audio soundtrack that, as you're building, you can learn and hear a cool story.” This was also a response to the new research into adult consumers that the LEGO Group have been doing by interviewing an astonishing 18,435 adults from around the world. The press release explains that they found “73% of adults often research new ways to help them relax”. “Featuring fascinating anecdotes from the creators of Iron Man and Star Wars, or those closest to the stories of Andy Warhol and the Beatles, the soundtracks dive deep into the inspiration behind each design to help adults fully immerse themselves in the building experience and unwind while they explore their love of music, art or film in a new way.” Frankly, I think it is a pretty neat idea that also taps into the popularity of podcasts and, although TLG could not have predicted this, the global lockdown certainly has given many adults a stronger appreciation for ‘escaping’ while in the home environment!

The soundtracks are as follows:

  • 31197 Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe includes interviews with Jessica Beck, Curator at The Andy Warhol Museum and stories from Blake Gopnik, Art Critic and the author of "Warhol", a comprehensive biography.
  • 31198 The Beatles includes interviews with Broadcaster and Beatles Expert, Geoff Lloyd, British journalist and Beatles fan Samira Ahmed and stories from Nish Kumar, Comedian, TV Presenter and Beatles fan.
  • 31199 Marvel Studios Iron Man includes interviews with Roy Thomas, former Marvel Editor in Chief and stories from Alex Grand, Marvel expert and host of “Comic Book Historians podcast”.
  • 31200 Star Wars The Sith includes interviews with Doug Chiang, VP & Executive Creative Director, Lucasfilm and stories from Glyn Dillon, creator of the design for Kylo Ren™, as seen in the Star Wars film saga.

Art pack or Parts pack?

“It's also important to note it's a brand new product line, so we have exciting brand new packaging; kind of pizza box-like packaging,” Sam says. “Inside, everything is mounted beautifully. You have the building instruction mounted in the top left of the box, all of the tiles – each colour is packaged in a separate bag so you can kind of use it like as if it was paint – and there's also a box which contains our brand new elements.”

A new approach has also been taken with the instructions, which again we don’t have images of, but Sam explains: “It's kind of like a paint-by-numbers type of building instruction so it's really easy to follow. So for those that might have issues telling the colours apart on some products, we've really tried to make it as easy as possible. And in each booklet you'll also get some cool information, similar to what we've been doing on products like LEGO Ideas. Because it's a collectible that you want to keep.”

“We're expecting this kind of product to also attract a lot of non-LEGO fans, so new consumers to the portfolio, who may be haven't found that a LEGO model was something they wanted to have on display in the home; maybe this kind of offering is something for them? So that's why we've tried to go a little bit outside of the box, away from some of the usual LEGO themes with the first two products.”

So it is clear this is largely aimed at non-AFOL adults who love one of the subjects represented; much like the Old Trafford set it seems TLG are happy to try out multiple niche markets of collectors. Is this theme for you? Will you be attracted to its parts or the subjects? And will you purchase multiples if so?

Coming 1 August 2020 (1 September in the US) the range comprises of four products each priced US$119.99/ CA $149.99/ £114.99/ DK 1099DKK/ €119.99 (Euro pricing varies by country). The Iron Man set will be a LEGO exclusive in most countries and the other three will be available from retailers. The release date is 1 August 2020, except the US where it is 1 September.

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  1. Love it, live it, love it. I need that large Darth Vader

  2. Whoa! Honestly, the mosaic concept here doesn't excite me too much, but all those recolors are rad!

    From looking at some of the pics and videos of the Beatles set on LEGO's website, it sort of looks like it might include 1x1 round tiles in Light Royal Blue/Bright Light Blue? It seems to be much lighter than the more "intermediate" blue shade that you identified as either Medium Blue or Sand Blue.

    On that note, for that color, I'm leaning towards Sand Blue — partly because Medium Blue would NOT be a new color for 1x1 round tiles, and partly because of how it looks compared to adjacent blue or gray colors in some of the pics and videos on LEGO's site.

    If I'm right about all that, then that would bring the total to nine 1x1 round tile recolors, just like you remember (Bright Purple, Bright Reddish Violet, Flame Yellowish Orange, Dark Orange, Sand Yellow, Dark Brown, Light Royal Blue, Medium Azur, and Sand Blue).

    Anyway, thanks so much for your analysis!

    1. I collect all 1x1 tiles in plain and prints. I just had the round plains complete. Let's restart the hunt!

  3. For £70 I'd definitely be thinking about it, but for £115 I'd rather just buy a print from an artist who would appreciate the support.

  4. Who's gonna buy just one Beatle?

  5. When the new 16x16 bases become widely available, they will make MILS so much simpler. Well, except the thickness will be half a plate off from MILS built on baseplates.

    1. I thought of the same thing, easy enough to put them on a baseplate I presume

  6. From the side by side close-up images in this article, I see the Nougat colour range in shades, not the Dark Tan you mention and Tan you assumed to be there.
    Same for the blues, I am quite sure those are Bright Light Blue and Medium Blue.
    So in the right side image you've got:
    - White
    - Light Nougat
    - Nougat
    - Medium Nougat
    - Reddish Brown
    - Red
    - Dark Red
    - Pearl Gold
    - Medium Blue
    - Blue (or Dark Blue?)

  7. That Iron man is sexy as hell! I probably won't to be able to justify the money to buy it but damn they will make me drool for a while...

  8. I love the idea, but my wallet not so much. I could definitely use that Iron Man triple on my non-existent desk space though.

    I think the next step would to have "embossed" artwork, with small 3D structures accenting the shapes. Just imagine that as a parts pack.

    1. Embossing is pressing a shape into a sheet of paper. What you're thinking of is bas-relief, which in terms of art is often associated with ancient Mediterranean cultures, from Egypt to Greece. Most commonly, people encounter bas-relief art in their own pockets, in the form of small discs of metal that can be traded for goods or services.

      And there's one interview I've read on this new line where that possibility is raised, and it sounds like it's something they've at least considered.

  9. Not interested in the mosaics in the least, but glad to see some of the new colors for the 1x1 pieces.
    I'm currently planning a new MOC and (again) found it surprising that a common element like the 1x1 round plate still does not exist in such a common color as dark tan. About time, I say!

    Also this seems overpriced - 120€ for ~3200 1x1 pieces? I think not. 70€ (as someone posted) seems about right - ~2 Cent for each of the 1x1 pieces, plus spme extra for the poops and few larger pieces.

    1. Heh. I made a LEGO Store MOC six years ago, and one of the things I wanted to do was to incorporate a PAB wall with actual parts. Having settled on the 2x2x2 container with a clear door as my PAB compartments, I quickly determined that the 1x1 round plate was my best option, as it's the smallest part I could find that comes in a large array of colors and won't fit through the slot on the top of the door. And then after designing a PAB wall that holds 40 compartments, I realized what I'd gotten myself into. One Bricklink order was placed with a store in Europe for _only_ 5x 1x1 round plates in a rare color, and generally speaking that aspect of the over 5000pc design required the widest array of small orders to accomplish. There were only a handful of unused colors on the list of official releases, most notably any shade of chrome. I think one of those colors was something that only became available after I'd finalized my parts list but before I'd been able to actually build the thing. Now there's a surplus of 13 colors, with another seven apparently on the way.

      Now I can't even change the selection. When I built it, I thought it would be a cool idea to have LEGO Store employees fill the PAB bins. So, aside from the dark-purple ones (which I put in myself), I repeatedly took the PAB wall section and all the round plates I'd settled on to our local LEGO Store and offered any employees I found the opportunity to pick one or two colors and add them to the wall. Last year the original store manager passed away, and somewhere on that wall are at least two compartments that he filled. I have no idea which ones they are, though, so the whole wall has to stay as it is or I risk undoing his part in the construction.

      Anyways, if you think dark-tan has been a long time coming, green had probably the longest delay between when the color was first (re)introduced and when they finally produced a 1x1 round plate in that color. I remember trying to get my hands on some after the release of the first Poison Ivy minifig, and the only seller I could find who had any listed sent me what were obviously clone parts (there was no logo and the pip was sunk into the top of the stud). There were two sets from 2004 that had them listed in their inventories. One was an LLCA exclusive witch, and the other was a Belville set that had them listed as an alternate to the same part in lime (they're shown in the cover art, but lime is the primary color in the inventory, which makes me wonder if that set ever shipped with them in green).

      Anyways, given the number of exclusive and rare colors in these sets, I think you'll find that Bricklink will only be more expensive than just buying the set at MSRP. $0.02/pc may seem reasonable for many colors on Bricklink, but they have to cover their material and labor costs on every element they produce. Bricklink sellers can severely underprice stuff where supply far outstrips demand just as a way to get rid of it, while they make their money back on the rare/popular parts. So, even giving how low the price/piece is on these sets, expect to see the desirable 1x1 round plates and tiles start somewhere well north of $0.10/pc (I could even see $0.50-$1 as the rock-bottom starting point on a few of these), and possibly shift even higher as the market self-adjusts.

  10. I want that new brick separator. I use 1x1 for tile floors all the time in my Projects. Will have to wait to see if someone has them on bricklink.

    1. I came up with something that made removing tiles easier, but not quite as easy as this. I took two Type 2 brick separators and linked them together by putting a 1x4 plate across the bottom, and a 1x4 tile across the top. If the Technic "axle" had been designed to standard spec (it's purposefully a little undersized for easy release of Technic parts), I would have put a pair of 1x3 flat liftarms across them as well. It enables the removal of four studs worth of tiles at the same time. I tried making it wider, but doing so caused it to be too fragile to be useful. However, looking at one of the differences between the Type 1 and Type 2 separators, I do see a way to potentially make a gigantic super-separator...