Ai Weiwei stands with his sculpture Straight as he previews works from his landmark art exhibition on Sept. 15, 2015, in London
Alex B. Huckle—Getty Images
By Joanna Plucinska
October 26, 2015

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei may have the last laugh following Lego’s refusal to provide supplies for his upcoming installation, thanks to the trending hashtag #LegosForWeiwei that calls for the wider public to instead donate the firm’s signature toy bricks.

On Sunday, Ai posted on his Instagram account that his studio began designing artworks that required a large quantity of Legos. The post also quoted Lego’s alleged refusal to supply a bulk order of the bricks. The works were intended for display at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne as part of an exhibition referred to as “Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei.”

"We're here to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow" (twitter.com/LEGO_Group) In June 2015 Ai Weiwei Studio began to design artworks which would have required a large quantity of Lego bricks to produce. The works were planned for the exhibition "Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei" at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, to open in December 2015. The artworks' concept relates to freedom of speech. The museum's curatorial team contacted Lego to place a bulk order and received Lego's reply via email on 12 September 2015: "We regret to inform you that it is against our corporate policy to indicate our approval of any unaffiliated activities outside the LEGO licensing program. However, we realize that artists may have an interest in using LEGO elements, or casts hereof, as an integrated part of their piece of art. In this connection, the LEGO Group would like to draw your attention to the following: The LEGO trademark cannot be used commercially in any way to promote, or name, the art work. The title of the artwork cannot incorporate the LEGO trademark. We cannot accept that the motive(s) are taken directly from our sales material/copyrighted photo material. The motive(s) cannot contain any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements. It must be clear to the public that the LEGO Group has not sponsored or endorsed the art work/project. Therefore I am very sorry to let you know that we are not in a position to support the exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei by supplying the bulk order." Ai Weiwei Studio was informed by NGV about Lego's rejection of the bulk order. As a commercial entity, Lego produces and sells toys, movies and amusement parks attracting children across the globe. As a powerful corporation, Lego is an influential cultural and political actor in the globalized economy with questionable values. Lego's refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination.

A post shared by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

“Lego’s refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination,” Ai said in the post.

An earlier post that quoted the toy company saying it “cannot approve the use of Legos for political works” is no longer on the artist’s Instagram account.

Ai’s fans have responded in droves on Twitter, with some pledging to donate their own Lego blocks so that the artist could complete his work, while criticizing Lego’s stance at the same time.

Ai has since said that he will do his best to find a way to accept the donations from the public.

Many are suspicious that Lego is trying to defend its corporate interests in China, especially since a U.K. company, Merlin Entertainments, announced on Oct. 21 that it would open a Legoland amusement park in Shanghai as part of the multibillion-dollar trade deal negotiated between the U.K. and China during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s October state visit to the country.

“We refrain, on a global level, from actively engaging in or endorsing the use of Lego bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda. This principle is not new from the Lego Group,” Troy Taylor, the head of Australian marketing for Lego, told ABC.

[ABC]

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