Through Social Media Campaign, Ai Weiwei Gets Lego to Change Its Sale Policy

Lego will no longer ask customers what they want to use the bricks for.

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

Ai Weiwei in his Lego Room (2015).
Photo: Courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria.

After facing an international outcry over its refusal to sell its signature toy bricks to the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei to create a series of politically sensitive artworks with them, the toy manufacturer Lego has reversed its policy on bulk orders.

According to the BBC, the international media furor caused by the dispute, heightened by Ai’s huge social media following, has prompted Lego’s sudden u-turn. The company has said it will no longer ask customers placing bulk orders what they want to use the toy bricks for.

In October 2015, Ai revealed that the Danish company had refused to fulfill a bulk order of Lego bricks placed by his studio, and accused the company of turning down the order on political grounds.

Ai suggested that the refusal was based on Lego protecting its commercial interests in China, after it emerged that the company had plans to build a Legoland theme park in Shanghai.

12) San Francisco – Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, 2 Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA 13) Wellington – Pataka Art+Museum, Cnr Parumoana & Norrie Streets, Porirua, Wellington, Porirua City 5240, New Zealand. 14) Massachusetts – MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247, USA. 15)  Sydney – Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia. 16) Toronto – Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto Ontario, Canada M5T 1G4 17)  Los Angeles – The Museum of Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA 18) Seattle – Asian Art Museum,1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle, WA, 98112. USA 12. Jan. 2016 Lego announces on it’s website that as of January 1st, the Lego Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects: “The LEGO Group has adjusted the guidelines for sales of Lego bricks in very large quantities. Previously, when asked to sell very large quantities of Lego bricks for projects, the Lego Group has asked about the thematic purpose of the project. This has been done, as the purpose of the Lego Group is to inspire children through creative play, not to actively support or endorse specific agendas of individuals or organizations. However, those guidelines could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent, and the Lego Group has therefore adjusted the guidelines for sales of Lego bricks in very large quantities. As of January 1st, the Lego Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects. Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear – if they intend to display their Lego creations in public – that the Lego Group does not support or endorse the specific projects.”

A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

The artist wanted to use the toys to create portraits of notable political dissidents for a museum exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. He took to Instagram to describe the incident as “an act of censorship and discrimination.”

Lego insisted that it was its policy not to sell bricks with the purpose of making political statements.

The artist made full use of his social media influence by Instagramming images of Lego bricks in a toilet and launching a highly publicized Lego brick donation campaign, with several collection points across the world.

无罪释放浦志强!

A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

The media savvy artist portrayed the donation campaign as an artwork, and his studio announced the project was a “response to Lego’s refusal,” adding that Ai “decided to make a new work to defend freedom of speech and ‘political art’.”


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