Ai Weiwei was in disbelief when his studio’s request for Lego bricks was declined by the company. via GIPHY
by BEATRICE PAEZ
Ai Weiwei fans the world over are pitching in Lego blocks after the company refused to process his bulk order. Global collection points will be set up in various cities to help the Chinese artist complete his art installation as part of his free-speech exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.
Ai told his Twitter followers he will find a way to accept people’s donations.
The dissident artist took his cause to social media, taking aim at the toy company’s corporate policy, which asserts it cannot have its products affiliated with projects outside of its purview.
In a letter addressed to Ai’s studio, the company said its products cannot be tied to artwork that bears any sort of religious, political, racist, obscene or defamatory statements. Ai responded on Instagram, saying that Lego’s decision “is an act of censorship and discrimination.”
Lego soon found itself caught in a social media debacle, with the artist’s fans criticizing its stance and offering Lego blocks to him. Some got creative with their responses, using the toy pieces to express their support:
— Henry Lancashire (@H_Lancashire) October 24, 2015
— Suzu King (@BellTree127) October 25, 2015
Others said Lego’s refusal to supply the studio was in itself a political act:
Lego not wanting its bricks to be used to make a political message … refusing to sell Ai Weiwei your bricks is itself a political message. — Jonathan Haynes (@JonathanHaynes) October 24, 2015
Known for his politically charged artwork, Ai has long been a target of the Chinese government, which had confiscated his passport and had detained him as part of a broader crackdown of human rights lawyers, activists and writers in 2011. Ai’s works have exhibited in cities all over, from Berlin and Toronto to San Francisco and London. Last year’s Alcatraz exhibit, Trace, a mosaic of so-called “prisoners of conscience,” used Lego pieces to build portraits of figures such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Nelson Mandela. The show was staged inside the Alcatraz penitentiary in San Francisco Bay.
Project details have yet to be revealed, but many speculate it will be an extension of Trace. His latest exhibit will be mounted later in December.