The LEGO Group wouldn’t allow artist Ai Weiwei to make a bulk purchase.
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Ai Weiwei, Letgo Room. ©Ai Weiwei.
Tiny Toys, Big Uproar
Was the LEGO Group right to refuse an artist’s order?

One of the world’s most popular toys, LEGO® bricks, have inspired children for generations. The Lego Group sells approximately 46 billion of the colorful, interlocking blocks every year—enough to circle Earth 18 times if laid end to end. But now the beloved toys are at the center of a controversy. It all began when Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (aye wayway) placed a bulk order for the bricks and the Lego Group rejected the order.

Ai makes art installations that highlight human rights issues. In 2014, Ai used Lego bricks in an installation at Alcatraz, a former prison located on an island off the coast of San Francisco, California. He used the colorful blocks to create portraits of 176 people who are imprisoned or in exile because of their political or religious beliefs.

Last October, Ai began preparing for a new exhibition in Australia. He tried to place a bulk order of several million LEGO bricks for an artwork he planned to include in the show. Knowing that Ai’s work can cause controversy, the LEGO Group denied the artist’s request. Officials at the company said that their products are children’s toys meant for creative play, and should not be used to express political messages.

Ai says that this is censorship. He points out that, just like a company that sells pens can’t dictate what authors write with their products, the LEGO Group shouldn’t decide what people build with their toys.

Ai took to social media to share his experience. In response, people from all over the world donated LEGO bricks for ?Ai’s new exhibition, which opened in December. One of the works in the show, Letgo Room, features portraits of Australian political activists made of donated and imitation bricks.

Following the public’s response, the LEGO Group changed their bulk sales policy. Beginning in 2016, the company no longer asks people to explain the intended themes of their projects when placing bulk orders. Instead, customers must disclose to the public that the LEGO Group doesn’t support or endorse any political message presented with LEGO products.

What do you think? Was the LEGO Group right to deny Ai’s order?

CRAFT AN ARGUMENT
1. What is the LEGO Group’s reasoning for refusing Ai’s order?
2. Why does Ai view the LEGO Group’s refusal as censorship?
3. Should artists be allowed to use or depict consumer products in their artworks? Why or why not?


I think that Lego should haves let Ai Weiwei order the Legos. Lego said, "There only for kids and creativity." I think Ai Weiwei is using the Legos for creativity, and not for politics.
Posted by: Jake S. | February 16, 2016 at 8:13 PM
I think that LEGO should have let Ai Weiwei order the Legos because he just wants to make something for his exhibit. If he got his purchase, the LEGO Group would of had more business because when people see what he's made, they'll want to make some stuff out of LEGO's.
Posted by: Mia D. | February 24, 2016 at 9:33 PM
The LEGO Group refused Ai's order because it did not want the controversy Ai created to reflect poorly on the company. However, by so doing, it was trying to control the use of its products and the message its products reflect. As a result, Ai's position was that LEGO was censorship. I believe artists should be allowed to use consumer products in their art. For instance, when I use Sharpies in my art, I do not think Sharpie endorses my art. LEGOs is a tool for creation and it should not try to control the creator or the creation. Just as Sharpie should not control what I write or draw with it. It is merely a tool. In addition, if I wanted to use an Eno hammock in a scupture, I think I should be able to. Art often uses a medium that is out of its normal use to create something out of the ordinary that conveys a message and a theme. The product and message ought not be controlled by the medium.
Posted by: Mary K. | March 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM
I think he should able to use them because they told him that they are used for creativity so hes using them for creativity.
Posted by: Jacob S. | March 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM
I think it should not matter they are getting money so who cares even if they were doing something bad with legos like making a sculpture of a dead guy or whatever they could just say they didn't know was going to do it.
Posted by: Sean R. | March 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM
I think it was right for them to not send him the lego's because e could of use them for something else.
Posted by: Karla N. | March 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM
1.They didn't want to be blamed for anything he did. 2.He views it as cencorship 3.Yes, because they should be able to be creative that is what art is all about.
Posted by: Julianne P. | March 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM
I think that the LEGO group just didn't want to be apart of the political view because if Ai Weiwei were to do something to put people in danger it would look bad on the LEGO company.
Posted by: Kristina C. | March 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM
Art is art never the less,Even though LEGO didn't sent his shipment,He got his art work,art can be what ever the artist wants it to be,And i think it was right for LEGO to change their rule.
Posted by: Isaiah s. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
I think it should not matter they are getting money so who cares even if they were doing something bad with legos like making a sculpture of a dead guy or whatever they could just say they didn't know was going to do it.
Posted by: Sean R. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
I think the Lego Co. should have let Ai Weiwei order the Lego's because he just wants to be creative and maybe make a point about Lego's being used for everyone to show there creative side.
Posted by: Timothy F. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
I think he should be able to use the legos.
Posted by: David S. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
I think this was unfair.
Posted by: Kam V. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
I think they should've gave him legos because he was just trying to make a sculpture.
Posted by: Keian W. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
LEGO company should have let Ai order the Legos because the LEGO company makes their blocks for people to make the things they want with them, to use their creativity to build what they want. SO, why shouldn't Ai be allowed to build the things he wants?
Posted by: Natalie G. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
LEGO company should have let Ai order the Legos because the LEGO company makes their blocks for people to make the things they want with them, to use their creativity to build what they want. SO, why shouldn't Ai be allowed to build the things he wants?
Posted by: Natalie G. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
Hmmmm...Lego is awesome but i don't think it should be used for political purpose.
Posted by: Clinton U. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
Lego was wrong for saying that their product was only used for kids when it was a lie to stop then conveying a political message.
Posted by: Emily E. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
i think that they should give Ai the LEGO'S
Posted by: Matthew H. | March 2, 2016 at 3:36 PM
i think yes artists should products in their artworks because people can be surprises of the people art work.
Posted by: Ricardo A. | March 2, 2016 at 3:37 PM
I think the LEGO group was right to refuse Ai's order because his plan could cause problems and a company doesn't want to be involved. Ai used lego bricks to imitate 176 prisoners in a prison. Knowing about Ai's work the LEGO group refused his work because it could cause controversy.
Posted by: Maleah G. | March 2, 2016 at 3:37 PM
I think artist's should BE able to use Lego products because, it could be good for business. A sculpture can open new opportunities to experiment with these blocks.
Posted by: Aaliyah M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:37 PM
I think Lego was wrong for saying they were for kids because adults also use them and Lego uses them at comic con which is formally for adults so they should let Ai do what he wants
Posted by: Simone M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:37 PM
no i dont because that basically like your not using your stuff because you are not the one who came up with the art that was made.
Posted by: jaylin u. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
I think LEGO should have let Ai Weiwei order the LEGOs because they are for kids and he wants to use it for creativity.
Posted by: diamond B. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
i think they should have let him becuase when has it been illegal to purchase legos i think its realy ridiculous that someone cant by things becuase of thier age except for liqour and drugs but people should be aloud to order legos
Posted by: andrew b. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
I go against them refusing because legos are meant to be for everyone. Because It is important to him to complete his goal to build some object out legos.
Posted by: Alyissa M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
I think that lego should have let Ai Weiwei use the legos because like what Jake s said he is using to make are,using creativity and that the point of legos so why can't Ai Weiwei use legos.
Posted by: Sadie H. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
Its right that they did not send it to him they just dont want to be in the politics mouth
Posted by: charles m. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
Yes, I think artist should be able to use consumer products in their artworks because are lets you be very creative with your surroundings and their imagination. I believe if anyone or anything is stopping or holding you back from what your mind sees or believes then you should keep pushing to accomplish your dream.
Posted by: Jacob P. | March 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM
I think that artists should be allowed to use or depict consumer products in their artworks because its art and its not like they're dissing the products, they're just using it to make art.
Posted by: Brenda M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
The groups reason for refusing Ai's order was because it delt with a political message. Also the lego people doesn't know what art is and they also make a profit off of it to so its a win win.
Posted by: Adrian R. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
The groups reason for refusing Ai's order was because it was with a political message. Although the Lego company doesn't know what art is but they make profit off it so a win win.
Posted by: Johntay j. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
Artists should be allowed to use customer products in their art, because it is a customer product that someone spent their money to buy.
Posted by: Christian M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
Artist should be allowed to use LEGO's products because its art of what they desire. And they should be able to create something that fulfills their vision.
Posted by: Mallerly V. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
I think Lego should let him order Lego's because he is going to use it for creativity not for him to play with like a kid.
Posted by: Gabriel S. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
I think Lego should let Ai Weiwei use the Legos in his artwork. He should use them because it can show what he is capable of creating and it shows how creative he is towards his artwork.
Posted by: Marlene R. | March 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM
I think they were right and wrong at the same time, because they should have not denied him, he spent his time and money to create the display he did, but then again the lego displays are meant for mostly children to see and some parents might not want their kids to see a those sort of things .
Posted by: ana m. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
I believe that LEGO should have allowed Ai Weiwei to use the LEGOs because they stated that the toys are for children and creativity. Art is a form of creativity that should be welcomed because the artwork wouldn't have physically harmed anyone in any way. Not to mention, sales would go up from the purchase, and if other people saw the artwork, then they may be inspired to use the toys in an art piece.
Posted by: Leticia B. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
I think they should be allowed to use them because there also representing the legos because what if people want to build something similar so they get legos so there also buying the product to make it.
Posted by: anahi c. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
I think that the artist should be allowed to use depict consumer products in their artwork.
Posted by: Jessica M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
This article goes two ways, with two different opinions and arguments. I am against the Lego company because when you have a product and the sales are good you don't want to change that,But when you tell people what not to do and what to do with the product they are buying its an issue. People look at it as your not buying it so how can you basically be in charge on how i use this product.
Posted by: Prayauna S. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
I think the LEGO group was wrong to deny his order of LEGO bricks. I understand that they didn't want to be part of Ai's exhibition but that was no reason to deny his order. They should have told him that they were not in consent of being mentioned as sponsors or to be said that they were part of his new art piece.
Posted by: Abigail M. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
Yes they should be able to depict or use consumer products because they are buying them still so it shouldn't be a problem.
Posted by: Joey L. | March 2, 2016 at 3:40 PM
I think that LEGO should have let Ai Weiwei get the LEGO's for his exhibit because it gives people ideas of what to make out of LEGO and that they can become artist.
Posted by: Rhiannon B. | March 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM
I think LEGO should Ai Weiwei use the Legos because he just wants to build with them.
Posted by: Miles C. | March 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM
I think LEGO should have let Ai Weiwei order the legos. All he was doing was expressing his creativity.
Posted by: Ian W. | March 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM
I think they should have sent him the LEGOS so he can sow off his amazing artwork to the world.I don't understand why they didn't send him the Legos because he needs to express himself.
Posted by: Nia S. | March 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM
I think that LEGO should have accepted Ai's order. LEGO claims that their product is only for kids and creativity. Ai Weiwei was using the Lego's to express his artistry, nothing more and nothing less. I agree that artists should be allowed to use consumer products in their artworks, but there should be a small set of rules such as they are not to imitate the product and claim that its their original idea. But either way, there would be complications no matter what. Overall,I agree with Ai Weiwei's claim, art should be something that can express your creativity and have no limitations.
Posted by: Jenna S. | March 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM
I think LEGO should have let Ai Weiwei order the legos. All he was doing was expressing his creativity.
Posted by: Ian W. | March 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM
Honestly, I can understand why the LEGO company denied Ai's order, they didn't want to get involved with his political views. Its just like when you friends with two people that hate one another, you wont want to get caught in the middle and ultimately have to chose one friend. Thats probably what happened. LEGO didn't want to make a potential enemy by letting Ai use their products for Political views. Ai is correct, you cant blame the pen company for what an author writes, but if your advertising the pen in the process, they might have a different take on it then.
Posted by: Courtney P. | April 5, 2016 at 5:12 PM
The LEGO Group's reasoning for refusing Ai’s order is because the LEGO said that the company’s legos are only for children to play with and that legos shouldn’t be used for political reasons. Also Ai considered the LEGO Group's refusal as censorship because it’s just a toy that your supposed to be creative with. “He points out that, just like a company that sells pens can’t dictate what authors wrote with their products, the LEGO Group shouldn’t decide what people build with their toys.” In my opinion artist should be allowed to use consumer products to create their art because it’s their art that their making to express themselves.
Posted by: Chloe M. | April 6, 2016 at 3:45 PM
The Lego Company did not let Ai Weiwei have the legos for his art project in Australia because they knew his work would cause controversy. Officials at the company said, “that their products are children's toys meant for creative play, and should not be used to express political messages.” Ai Weiwei think the groups denial is a censorship because they can not stop people from building what they want to build. I think artists should be able to use consumer products in their artwork because it is their choice whether or not they want to use them in their artwork.
Posted by: Joseph s. | April 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM
Lego’s declined Ai’s order because they thought if his art with there products cause controversy then people will go after legos for supporting him with his idea. Ai thinks this is censorship because he thinks that they shouldn’t just not sell him the product just because of what he’s doing with the item. I think artists should be allowed to use consumer products because without their products they might not be able to do their artwork like they want to.
Posted by: Alexis K. | April 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM
What was the Lego group's reasoning for refusing Ai’s order? They didn’t want to get into controversy because he was making portraits of people who are imprisoned or exiled because of their beliefs. Ai views it as censorship because they didn’t want to get caught in controversy because they’re a children’s toy. However, yes, I believe artists should be able to use what they want in their artwork. I’m not really sure why though. I just believe it is right.
Posted by: James g. | April 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM
Officials at the company said "that their products are children's toys meant for creative play, and should not be used to express political messages". Calder points out that, just like a company that sells pens can't dictate what authors write with their products, the LEGO Groups shouldn't decide what people build with their toys. Yes I do think artists should be able to use consumer products, because if you can't use the products, you might as well not buy them.
Posted by: Russell L. | April 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM
I believe that the LEGO Group refused Ai’s order because they didn’t want their group’s name on the blocks of Ai’s artwork because of religious beliefs and disbeliefs. That’s why I think they denied Ai’s order. I believe that Ai calls LEGO’s refusal censorship because they wouldn’t give him the Legos to do what he wanted to do with them. If someone wants to do something with the legos Ai should be able to do anything with them that he wants to do with them because he bought them and they can’t tell Ai what he can and can’t do with them. I believe that artists should be able to use consumer products for whatever they want because the artist(s) bought them not the LEGO Group.
Posted by: Michael J. | April 6, 2016 at 3:47 PM
The lego group’s reasoning for refusing Ai’s order was because in 2014, Ai used lego bricks in an installation's that highlight at Alcatraz, a former prison located on an island off the coast of San Francisco, California. That is why the lego company did not get the order because of that reason. Ai points out that just like a company that sells pens can’t dictate what authors write with their products the lego group shouldn’t decide what people build with their toys. No, I don’t think artists should be allowed to use or depict consumer products because they should come up with there on ideas that is why I said no.
Posted by: Trenton p. | April 6, 2016 at 3:47 PM
CARSON1 The reasoning that the Lego Group refused Ai’s order was because the Lego company toys was at the center of controversy, and the company doesn’t want to be apart of it. The reasoning for refusing Ai’s censorship was because the Lego Group is just like a company that sells pens. No, I don't think artist's should be allowed to use or depict consumer products in their artwork because the Lego group is for everyone to do what they want with the toys. Toys are Toys you do what you with it.
Posted by: Ashantie C. | April 6, 2016 at 3:47 PM
I think artist should be allowed to use consumer products in their art work because its not the company's fault is the artist offends someone with the art. Its the artist decision to offended that person, the company's just doing their job.
Posted by: Edward S. | April 18, 2016 at 7:47 PM
No I do not agree with Lego's decision to not allow Ai Weiwei create his installation because Lego markets there product for being able to use at all ages. By making a product and selling it to the public you allow the consumer to use the product however they want to use it. This is censorship because Lego is refusing to let Ai Weiwei to make his point with the Lego bricks and they do not want to be associated with a controversial artisit. I think artists have the full right to use a company's product however they like because they payed money in order to use the product and should not be given permission to buy the product. Like if I wanted to buy marshmallows for an art project and the marshmallow company denies me ability to use the marshmallows because I want to make a political statement, they should not be able to have a say in that.
Posted by: David W. | April 18, 2016 at 7:47 PM
Personally, I do not agree with LEGO's reaction. I believe that they should have allowed the artist to use their product to speak out against human rights issues. However, I can see from a business standpoint why they would act the way they did. Controversy is usually bad for business, and I can understand why LEGO would not want to be at the center of a lot of unwanted attention. I think that this is a form of indirect censorship. They did not completely censor him because he could have obtained them another way (which he did) or use another material. But they still denied his request that would have most likely been approved if someone was not using the bricks for a political purpose.
Posted by: Harley B. | April 18, 2016 at 7:47 PM
1. I don't agree with Lego's reaction because Weiwei is just using them as a material to show his beliefs. Once he buys the product, he is entitled to use it in whatever way he wants. It doesn't necessarily mean the Lego company is supporting him. I think it's censorship because Lego is preventing him from expressing his political beliefs.
Posted by: Matthew P. | April 18, 2016 at 7:47 PM
Lego's should allow WeiWei to use lego's as an expressive medium. Art is a important place for freedom of speech, and Lego's shouldn't strip that right away from Weiwei. Yes, I believe all art should have no boundaries. Restricting an artist from something restricts their ability to express themselves. (Table 1)
Posted by: Isaiah P. | April 18, 2016 at 7:47 PM
LEGO is being completely stupid about there decision with Ai's order. Their supposed to be selling LEGO bricks, not refusing orders. Plus their not doing very well for them selves. They could've made who knows how much off of his order!
Posted by: Porter S. | April 18, 2016 at 7:47 PM

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