I could sit here and type an article but it would just be a regurgitation of these three posts on Instagram by Ai Weiwei, as posted today. You see, this is exactly the power of social media, activism and art that I have written about previously. Collectively, across the globe people came together to support Ai Weiwei in his campaign to crowdsource Lego. Clearly, in this instance, it wasn’t a campaign just about the bulk supply of Lego pieces. Moreso it was much more about an Artist’s right to freedom of expression by using Lego as a medium to create provocative art. Resulting in this announcement by Lego: “As of January 1st, the Lego Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects. Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear – if they intend to display their Lego creations in public – that the Lego Group does not support or endorse the specific projects.”
Thank goodness common sense prevailed by the team at Lego, that their statement was all it was about. Any sensible art lover or not would hopefully realise that it is exactly that.
Props to Ai Weiwei another win.
LEGO June 2015 Ai Weiwei Studio began to design artworks which would have required a large quantity of Lego bricks to produce. The works were planned for the exhibition "Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei" at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, to open in December 2015. The artworks' concept relates to freedom of speech. The museum's curatorial team contacted Lego to place a bulk order. 12. Sept. 2015 The museum received Lego's reply via email: "We regret to inform you that it is against our corporate policy to indicate our approval of any unaffiliated activities outside the Lego licensing program. However, we realize that artists may have an interest in using Lego elements, or casts hereof, as an integrated part of their piece of art. In this connection, the Lego Group would like to draw your attention to the following: The Lego trademark cannot be used commercially in any way to promote, or name, the art work. The title of the artwork cannot incorporate the Lego trademark. We cannot accept that the motive(s) are taken directly from our sales material/copyrighted photo material. The motive(s) cannot contain any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements. It must be clear to the public that the Lego Group has not sponsored or endorsed the artwork/project. Therefore I am very sorry to let you know that we are not in a position to support the exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei by supplying the bulk order." 23. Sept. 2015 Ai Weiwei Studio was informed by NGV about Lego's rejection of the bulk order. 21. Oct. 2015 The British company “Merlin” announced that it will open a new Legoland in Shanghai. 23. Oct. 2015 The information that Lego refused Ai Weiwei Studio's request for a bulk order of bricks to create an artwork is made public on Ai Weiwei’s instagram: “In September Lego refused Ai Weiwei Studio's request for a bulk order of Legos to create artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria as ‘they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.’ On Oct 21, a British firm formally announced that it will open a new Legoland in Shanghai as one of the many deals of the U.K.-China ‘Golden Era.’ “ （1）
25. Oct. 2015 Ai Weiwei published an excerpt of Lego’s email to National Gallery of Victoria about the rejection of the bulk order and the note: “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.” The posts triggered a torrent of outrage on social media and widespread reaction in the press. Numerous supporters offered Lego donations to the artist. 26. Oct. 2015 In response to Lego’s refusal and the overwhelming public response, Ai Weiwei announced that he has decided to make a new artwork to defend the freedom of speech and “political art”. The new project started off with a car placed outside the artist’s studio in Beijing in which people could drop-in donations of Lego bricks. An instruction was posted on instagram for further Lego collection points. Up until today the following locations have been participating in the Lego collection points: 1) Beijing – Ai Weiwei Studio, 258 Caochangdi, 100015 Beijing, China 2) Melbourne – National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia 3) Berlin – Martin-Gropius-Bau, Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin, Germany 4) London – The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD, UK 5) Copenhagen – Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Kongens Nytorv 1, 1050 Copenhagen K, Denmark 6) Malaga – CAC Málaga, Contemporary Art Center of Málaga, c/Alemania s/n 29001 Malaga, Spain 7) New York – The Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York 11238, USA 8) Amsterdam – Foam (Photography Museum Amsterdam), Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS Amsterdam, The Netherlands 9) Lausanne – Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Palais de Rumine, Place de la Riponne 6, CH-1014 Lausanne, Switzerland 10) Helsinki – Helsinki Art Museum, Tennic Palace, Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, 00100 Helsinki, Finnland 11) Miami – Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), 1103 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33132, USA （2）
12) San Francisco – Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, 2 Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA 13) Wellington – Pataka Art+Museum, Cnr Parumoana & Norrie Streets, Porirua, Wellington, Porirua City 5240, New Zealand. 14) Massachusetts – MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247, USA. 15) Sydney – Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia. 16) Toronto – Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto Ontario, Canada M5T 1G4 17) Los Angeles – The Museum of Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA 18) Seattle – Asian Art Museum,1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle, WA, 98112. USA 12. Jan. 2016 Lego announces on it’s website that as of January 1st, the Lego Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects: “The LEGO Group has adjusted the guidelines for sales of Lego bricks in very large quantities. Previously, when asked to sell very large quantities of Lego bricks for projects, the Lego Group has asked about the thematic purpose of the project. This has been done, as the purpose of the Lego Group is to inspire children through creative play, not to actively support or endorse specific agendas of individuals or organizations. However, those guidelines could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent, and the Lego Group has therefore adjusted the guidelines for sales of Lego bricks in very large quantities. As of January 1st, the Lego Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects. Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear – if they intend to display their Lego creations in public – that the Lego Group does not support or endorse the specific projects.”