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 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.

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.

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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