Denmark: Toy manufacturer in freedom of speech row over art project

9 November 2015


The world’s biggest toy manufacturer, the Danish company Lego, has been accused of oppressing free artistic expression after they declined to sell a large amount of lego bricks to the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was going to use them for what Lego defined as ‘political works’ at an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia. Fans have since been mailing the dissident artist boxes of lego bricks.

The Atlantic wrote on 27 October 2015:

“Lego responded by saying the company respects “free creative expression” and never tried to ban use of their product in non-sponsored or endorsed art projects.

On Twitter, the company has been responding to a flood of angry tweets: “Anyone is welcome to LEGO bricks via normal sales channels for their projects, we see thousands of projects daily … we just can’t offer direct bulk purchases to facilitate such projects. We hope this helps to explain things!”

The Legos Ai receives will be part of two works for an exhibition titled Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei, which will explore the concept of freedom of speech. According to The New York Times, one piece will re-envision his 1995 photo triptych ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’, and the other will feature 20 Lego portraits of Australian proponents of Internet freedom and human rights.

While Lego has shied away from politics in the past, its bricks have been used in controversial art before, notably by the Polish artist Zbigniew Libera, who created a concentration camp out of Legos in 1996.

Ai has used Legos in other works as well: In his last exhibition, installed on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, he used 1.2 million Legos to construct colorful portraits of political prisoners, including Chelsea Manning and Nelson Mandela.

» The Atlantic – 27 October 2015:
Ai Weiwei Versus Lego

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