Lego versus Ai Weiwei


Artist Ai Weiwei accused Lego of “censorship and discrimination” because the latter refused to sell its bricks to him because his new artistic work may convey a political statement.

According to Ai, Lego rejected Ai’s bulk order of bricks, saying that its bricks could not be used for any artworks that may of “any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements.”

In response to Lego’s refusal, many fans and artists demonstrate their supports for Ai. Many of them donated their bricks to Ai, hoping that their donations could adding the amount of bricks to the degree that Ai can accomplish his Melbourne show. Some people also expressed their opinions on their social website such as Instagram or Twitter. One used Lego’s toy bricks to spell out the word “I support Ai Weiwei” and added a cutline that “we won’t be buying anymore.”

Ai wrote on his Instagram that “Lego will tell us what to do, or not to do. That is awesome!” to make an irony here because Lego has a slogan “everything is awesome”.

Ai was an artist known for his fierce criticism of Chinese government. Last year, Ai used Lego bricks in his art show at the former Alcatraz prison, near San Francisco, to create portraits of 175 dissidents who had been jailed or exiled, from Nelson Mandela to Edward Snowden. He intended to hold a similar art display in Melbourne.

Ai has changed the theme of his upcoming artistic show to defend freedom of speech and “political art,” due to Lego’s rejection of selling its bricks.

From where I stand, I consider that Lego’s behavior is for the sake of its future cooperation with the Chinese government. Lego plans to build a new Legoland in Shanghai. For Lego, building a theme park is apparently more profitable than selling bricks to an artist. Given that Chinese government is not welcoming Ai, Lego would absolutely not offend and annoy its future cooperator, Chinese government, by selling Ai bricks and indirectly assist Ai to demonstrate unpleasant arts to Chinese government.

Essentially, it is another story about people who stand on the tip pyramid of money and power win the game, or rather, make the rule.