Ai Weiwei Unveils Much Awaited Lego Project, and It’s Highly Political

Chances are Danish company Lego won't be thrilled.

Ai Weiwei in Lego Room (2015) Photo: courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria
Ai Weiwei in Lego Room (2015)
Photo: courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria

Ai Weiwei has finally unveiled his hotly anticipated Letgo Room (2015), made with Lego blocks donated from all over the world, and it turns out the piece celebrates Australian political activists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The installation is part of the exhibition “Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei,” which opens today at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, to which, according to the Guardian, he has donated the new work.

In October, news broke that Lego had refused to supply a bulk order to Ai, citing political reasons. Ai took to social media, firstly proclaiming his disgust at the stance of the Danish company, then calling for donations of second hand Lego blocks so he could complete the work. Collection points were set up around the globe, from Beijing to London to Melbourne, and donations from his global network of supporters poured in.

A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

We expect the executives at Lego are highly displeased, as the end result could not be more political. Letgo Room is lined with over two million building blocks, and was constructed over the last few weeks by 100 volunteers following the artist’s instructions.

Those celebrated in the Lego portraits and accompanying quotes include Assange (with whom Ai posed on Instagram two moths ago, while he was in London), Geoffrey Robertson QC, Peter Greste, Professor Gillian Triggs, and Rosie Batty. The full list of 20 covers those fighting for human rights, the rights of indigenous Australians, and the rights of asylum seekers and sex workers, plus those working in community care.

Ai Weiwei <i>Forever Bicycles</i> <br> Photo: courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria

Ai Weiwei, Forever Bicycles (2015)
Photo: Courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria.

The exhibition, which places works by the Chinese artist in dialogue with works by Andy Warhol, contains five new works by Ai, and the famous bicycle, which stood out side his studio with flowers placed in the basket in protest of his inability to travel, will also be on view. Visitors will also be able to see new Forever works and a new inflatable work, Bird Balloons (2015), which is a response Warhol’s Silver Clouds (1966).

Ai has had an eventful year, during which he finally recovered his passport from the Chinese authorities after four years (although his Beijing studio is still under surveillance).

After receiving his passport back, he travelled to London to launch his successful solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and then to Germany, where he has taken up a teaching post.

The unveiling of Letgo Room comes after much speculation, with Ai taking to Instagram to drop hints about his project, posting lego-esque images of dissidents and activists.

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei” is on view at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne from December 11, 2015 -April 26, 2016.


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