Ai Weiwei has no time for dropping bricks after Danish toy giant LEGO recently denied to supply his latest art project with its products.
In October 2015 Lego refused a bulk order from an Australian gallery where Chinese artist Ai Weiwei plans to build a new artwork on the theme of freedom of speech. Ai Weiwei called the Danish denial for “an act of censorship and discrimination”, but Lego says it can’t endorse the use of its bricks in projects with a “political agenda”.
Now art galleries and private persons around the world are collecting plastic pieces for the dissident Chinese artist. It’s not the first time he uses Lego pieces to make art and statements. He has previously used Lego bricks to create “Trace”, an installation depicting portraits of political activists such as Nelson Mandela and Edward Snowden, at a 2014 exhibition at Alcatraz Island, the former prison near San Francisco.
London’s Royal Academy, which is currently mounting an exhibition of Ai’s work, is encouraging supporters to fill an entire BMW car in its courtyard with Lego bricks for Ai Weiwei.
Other galleries have also taken up collections, including the Brooklyn Museum in New York, Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau and Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria, where an exhibition of Ai’s new work is due to open in December 2015.
Lego reported sales of 14.1 billion Danish kroner in the first half of 2015, which makes the privately owned company the world’s biggest toy-maker. China is one of Lego’s biggest growth markets, but the company said Ai Weiwei’s case was the product of longstanding policy, not politics.
Lego said it had a decades-old policy of not “actively engaging in or endorsing the use of Lego bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda.”
In a statement Lego said: “This means that in cases where we receive requests for donations or support for projects from artists, we kindly decline in the cases where we are made aware there is a political context.”
Lego said that rule applied to requests for donations, which it generally refuses unless the recipients are children, or bulk purchases. But it also said “anyone can purchase Lego bricks in toy stores or in other ways and use them for any purpose they desire.”