Lego’s Rejection of Ai Weiwei
Here’s a Sunroof Proposal
When Lego rejects Ai Weiwei, something is amiss. The iconic Danish company has rejected the dissident Chinese artist’s request to purchase a bulk order of Legos, and the news has caused backlash against the company and stirred grassroots organizing. In Katharine Schwab’s Atlantic article “Ai Weiwei Versus Lego”, she notes that supporters are expressing outrage that Ai is being, as they see it, censored by the Lego company, which has recently announced they’ll be building a LEGOLAND in China. As Schwab reports, the company specifically noted they “cannot approve the use of Legos for political works,” though they have since told commenters on Lego social media they are rejecting this because they cannot fulfill every direct bulk order.
Looking past the politics for a moment, what’s really interesting to me is the energy regular people worldwide are putting into supporting the artist, who is preparing a piece to be installed in the National Gallery of Victoria (in Melbourne, Australia). Schwab reveals there are already several drop off locations established—including through the sunroof of a parked car—and the Twitter hashtags #legogate and #legoforaiweiwei are trending. Tweets show children mailing packages of Lego from what appear to be their own collections for the effort. The response is completely astounding, and deservedly so.
Do this thought experiment: Imagine with me a world in which a bold artist with a vision and dedication to her craft has such a lifeline. What if any brave artist could raise such a response for the resources she needs to complete a project that couldn’t be realized without her? What would the world that supported artists at this level look like?
This project is sure to be a brilliant addition to Ai’s body of work. And people who participate in the cause can feel they have contributed to a worthy effort, as so many agree with the political statements Ai makes with his work. And then, it is my hope that we can keep this sunroof open—the one Ai used as his first Lego drop—and repurpose the idea by helping more art enter the world.
How could we continue this level of support for other artists?
Lego image courtesy of Kenny Louie, via the Creative Commons share license.
Ai Weiwei image courtesy of Hafenbar, via the Creative Commons share license.