Lego has refused to send Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei a bulk order of its toy bricks, the artist claims, because it “cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.”
Ai Weiwei, a vocal opponent of the Chinese government's iron-fisted censorship, wrote on Instagram Friday that he had planned to use the Legos in a piece on free speech called "Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei" for display later this year in Australia's National Gallery of Victoria, which placed the Lego order for him.
Just weeks after Lego denied his order in September, he noted, the Danish toy company announced plans to open a new Legoland theme park in Shanghai.
The artist quickly denounced Lego for censoring political work.
"As a powerful corporation, Lego is an influential cultural and political actor in the globalized economy with questionable values," he wrote in a second post on Saturday showing the toy bricks in a toilet. "Lego's refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination."
Lego spokesman Roar Rude Trangbæk told The Huffington Post in an email that he could not comment on the company's dialogue with individual customers but that it avoids "actively engaging" in political works by supplying bulk orders:
We acknowledge, that LEGO bricks today are used globally by millions of fans, adults, children and artists as a creative medium to express their imagination and creativity in many different ways. Projects that are not endorsed or supported by the LEGO Group.
However, as a company dedicated to delivering great creative play experiences to children, we refrain - on a global level - from actively engaging in in or endorsing the use of LEGO bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda. This principle is not new.
In cases where we receive requests for donations or support for projects - such as the possibility of purchasing LEGO bricks in very large quantities, which is not possible through normal sales channels - where we are made aware that there is a political context, we therefore kindly decline support.
Any individual person can naturally purchase LEGO bricks through normal sales channels or get access to LEGO bricks in other ways to create their LEGO projects if they desire to do so, but as a company, we choose to refrain from actively engaging in these activities – through for example bulk purchase.
A number of Ai's supporters are already helping the artist get around the company's policy by sending him Legos and encouraging others to do so on social media, The Guardian noted.
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