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.