Lego denies censoring Chinese artist

  • 27/10/2015
Ai Weiwei (Reuters)
Ai Weiwei (Reuters)

By Jesse Matheson

Lego says denying a shipment of bricks to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei for an artwork which was to have been exhibited at the National Gallery of Victoria isn't censorship but a matter of policy.

Weiwei, who is a vocal opponent of China's strict censorship laws, was denied a bulk-order by the Danish manufacturer for what he says are political reasons.

The work was due to appear at the NGV in Melbourne as part of an exhibition to open in December.

"We do not censor, prohibit or ban creative use of LEGO bricks," Lego Australia's Head of Marketing Troy Taylor told AAP.

"We respect any individuals' right to free creative expression."

The National Gallery of Victoria says it is working with Weiwei to consider other materials to use instead of Lego.

Weiwei, however, said on Instagram that he still plans to use Lego thanks to donations of bricks from fans.

"Lego's position triggered a torrent of outrage of social media against this assault on creativity and freedom of expression," Weiwei said.

"In response to Lego's refusal and the overwhelming public response, Ai Weiwei has now decided to make a new work to defend Freedom of Speech and political art."

Lego said they welcomed Weiwei continuing to use the bricks in his works but they would not supply them.

Taylor said Lego bricks were a children's product, and the company did not endorse political messages.

"If we are made aware of a political agenda we will decline active support through, for example, bulk-purchase... this principle is not new by the Lego Group," Taylor said.

Weiwei also accused Lego of denying his order because of their planned expansion into the Chinese market.

Lego rejected this accusation.

"I would like to stress that this principle is neither new nor is it isolated to any specific region of the world or specific projects."