Lego Changes Bulk Order Policy Following Ai Weiwei Controversy

MASS MoCA and other cultural institutions collected toy bricks for the artist.

ai weiwei

Ai Weiwei / Photo via Shutterstock

A few months ago, the Lego Group refused to fill a bulk order of its iconic toy bricks to be used for a new installation by Ai Weiwei, whose works are known to be imbued with political meaning. The Chinese artist declared it “an act of censorship and discrimination.”

Ai’s supporters responded by offering to donate their own Legos to the artist, and Ai subsequently tapped more than a dozen cultural institutions around the world, including MASS MoCA, to serve as collection sites.

On Tuesday, the Lego Group announced that it had adjusted its guidelines for bulk order sales.

“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,” says a statement from the company. “However, those guidelines could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent.”

The announcement declares that as of January 1, 2016, the company no longer questions the thematic purpose behind bulk orders, but does ask customers to make it clear that the Lego Group doesn’t support or endorse their projects if they’re displayed publicly.


A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

While the statement made no mention of Ai Weiwei, the artist told the Associated Press that he believes the company was pressured by online discussions regarding his case.

“Lego is a language which everybody can appreciate and should be able to use it according to their will, and that’s what all freedom of expression is about,” he said.

Currently, the artist and political activist plans to create several projects in response to the refugee crisis in Europe. Locally, his existing work will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts starting in April, as part of the “Megacities Asia” exhibition showcasing 11 artists.