Lego Denied Artist Ai Weiwei And It Backfired Spectacularly
Everything definitely isn’t awesome for Ai Weiwei, Chinese dissident and leading contemporary artist, who tried to bulk order Legos for an upcoming artwork and was turned away. Lego told Weiwei that they won’t sell to him directly because his artworks fall in the category of “political, religious, racist, obscene, or defaming.”
And Weiwei’s work is political, yes, but this is coming from a company that’s most recently famous for a film that commented on conformity, consumerism, and fascism. I mean, heck, the decision to deny Weiwei their product is itself a political act. Weiwei pointed out the contradiction that Lego is a large corporation with a fair amount of influence, especially among young people, that feels free to make its own statements but also free to deny their product to an artist who wants to make a different statement:
Lego is giving us the definition of what is “political”,and all the big corporations are telling us what to love or hate. that awesome.
— 艾未未 Ai Weiwei (@aiww) October 25, 2015
But it’s cool: Weiwei has set up Lego collection points in various different cities and is getting swamped with offers of Lego donations and declarations of support. The artwork he was planning on making was going to be a tribute to political dissidents, but now he’s decided to use the Legos to make an artwork defending free speech and political art.
So there, Lego. And look, I know that corporations are free to turn down customers if they want to, but this seems a little ridiculous. Artists use a variety of media to make art that I’m sure goes against the personal values of the people who run the company all the time. What if Winsor and Newton told an artist that their oil paints couldn’t be bought because the artwork wasn’t in line with the company’s vision? Lego can’t claim to “[respect] any individual’s right to free, creative expression” and claim that they have the right to deny their product to someone for the tenor of their artwork.