Lego has changed its policy on bulk orders after the hugely unpopular decision to refuse a purchase from Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
Last fall, Lego blocked (ha ha) a bulk purchase from Ai Weiwei citing “political grounds.” The artist had ordered the bricks for a project celebrating human rights and free speech advocates at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s oldest public art museum.
Ai Weiwei wrote about the decision on his Instagram, calling it “censorship and discrimination,” and sparking substantial public outcry on social media. Many fans also started donating Lego bricks of their own to the project.
In a statement this week, Lego said that it has changed its policy regarding bulk orders. As of Jan. 1, the company “no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of LEGO bricks for projects.”
Lego also stated that the original policy had been put in place to prevent the brand from appearing to endorse any particular agenda, “as the purpose of the LEGO Group is to inspire children through creative play.”
Therefore, moving forward, the company will ask bulk order customers to include a disclaimer with their work noting that Lego does not support or endorse specific projects.
Regarding the reversal, Ai Weiwei told the New York Times that Lego made a “good decision.”
“When it comes to artists and freedom of expression, it’s a continual effort,” he said. “Even though Lego is a big company that moves slowly, I’m glad they made this decision in the end.”
Meanwhile, it turns out the artist isn’t even using Lego bricks for his project anymore. The Times reports that “his team ended up using cheaper knockoff bricks made by a Chinese company for the exhibition.”
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.”