Entertainment & Arts

Artist Ai Weiwei to set up Lego collection points

Ai Weiwei Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ai Weiwei: 'Lego will tell us what to do, or not to do. That is awesome!'

Artist Ai Weiwei is setting up "Lego collection points" in different cities after being inundated with offers of donations from supporters.

Ai has accused Lego of "censorship and discrimination" after it refused his bulk order for bricks for a new exhibition in Melbourne, Australia.

Lego said it has never sold directly to anyone wanting to use its product to make a political statement.

The artist will now use the donated toy bricks to make a "new work".

"In response to Lego's refusal and the overwhelming public response, Ai Weiwei has now decided to make a new work to defend freedom of speech and 'political art'," said a post on the artist's Instagram account on Monday.

"Ai Weiwei Studio will announce the project description and Lego collection points in different cities. This is the first phase of the coming projects."

Further posts pictured a red car labelled, "the first Lego container", and a photo of Lego bricks inside the car, accompanied by the words, "the morning droppings".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The artist created Lego portraits of notable dissidents last year

Ai used Lego last year to create portraits of 175 dissident figures who had been jailed or exiled, from Nelson Mandela to Edward Snowden, on the site of the former Alcatraz prison near San Francisco.

He planned a similar work for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, but a bulk order placed by the museum was rejected by the Danish company.

The Chinese artist said the company told the museum its bricks could not be used for artworks containing "any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements".

Referring to The Lego Movie's slogan "everything is awesome", Ai wrote on Twitter: "Lego will tell us what to do, or not to do. That is awesome!"

He added: "Lego is giving us the definition of what is 'political', and all the big corporations are telling us what to love or hate. That is awesome."

Image copyright Suzi King / Twitter
Image caption The artist has been 'overwhelmed' by the reaction from supporters on social media

In an earlier Instagram post, he wrote: "As a commercial entity, Lego produces and sells toys, movies and amusement parks attracting children across the globe.

"As a powerful corporation, Lego is an influential cultural and political actor in the globalized economy with questionable values.

"Lego's refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination."

Long-standing policy

Lego spokesman Roar Rude Trangbaek would not comment directly on the case but said that, as a principle, Lego "respects any individual's right to free, creative expression".

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption The artist will now use any donated toy bricks to make a new artwork

The artist also linked Lego's stance with plans for a new Legoland in Shanghai.

Lego said the theme park was being built by Merlin Entertainment and not Lego, but that Lego does have some ties with Merlin because it uses the Lego brand.

Ai Weiwei is known for his criticism of the Chinese government as well as for being one of the world's leading contemporary artists.

Many fans have utilised Lego to help show their support for the artist on social media. One used the toy bricks to spell out the words "I support Ai Weiwei", while others offered to let the artist borrow their collection, adding, "we won't be buying more".

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