Following the hashtag on Twitter, I was hesitant about jumping into the conversation and offering up an alternative viewpoint since I know better than to get into an argument over Twitter.
In September Lego refused Ai Weiwei Studio’s request for a bulk order of Legos to create artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria as “they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.” On Oct 21, a British firm formally announced that it will open a new Legoland in Shanghai as one of the many deals of the U.K.-China “Golden Era.”
That all changed when a journalist from Canadian newspaper Globe and the Mail contacted me to ask me for my perspective on this as a LEGO fan. I hadn’t seen anyone else offer an opposing argument on this issue so I decided to volunteer my thoughts.
You can read the article that I was featured in here – it’s a lot more balanced than most of the other articles I’ve read.
They didn’t include my whole response, so I’m sharing it here so that you can see my take on this whole silly issue:
As a LEGO fan and someone quite familiar with how The LEGO Group operates, this response isn’t uncharacteristic at all and I believe that LEGO are fully within their rights to decline selling or supporting Ai Weiwei’s art piece. I believe that the media have largely blown this out of proportion, taking LEGO’s decision out of context. I think it’s very unfair to equate LEGO’s stance to not support or sell bulk bricks to Ai as censorship as LEGO did not explicitly prevent him from using the bricks for his installation – they just didn’t want to supply the bricks directly.
The LEGO Group is first and foremost a toy company, with their core audience being children and parents. As a private company I also believe that they’re fully within their rights to be mindful of protecting how their brand and products are associated. This is also why LEGO will never produce sets with War, religious or political themes.
I’m a huge supporter of Ai Weiwei’s cause and am planning on visiting the NGV to see his exhibit when it opens but in this case, I feel that his use of social media to attack LEGO’s decision is purely to drum up negative publicity. It’s a little petty, to be honest.
If Ai Weiwei really wanted LEGO, he could’ve used other avenues such as Bricklink (an online LEGO marketplace) to source the parts he needed. Bricklink is a huge resource for LEGO fans worldwide to create some of the amazing models, displays and sets that you often see in the news or fan events – many of which are not endorsed by LEGO.
I don’t think it’ll negatively affect the brand at all. LEGO will still remain a great toy for kids to adults and that perception will not change because of this.
Attacking LEGO’s values is also a bit of a cheap shot since LEGO have proved that they are open to considering their stance on public issues. They recently severed ties with Shell due to environmental concerns after a widely publicised campaign by Greenpeace – so it’s not like they’re totally opposed to dialogue and feedback from fans.
So yeah, I definitely side with LEGO on their decision – I don’t think it’s fair to force The LEGO Group into a political dispute and cry censorship when they refuse.
I typed that up on the train ride home yesterday but in hindsight, I would’ve also mentioned added that LEGO does have a good reason for not wanting to support or endorse political works of art.
Polish Artist Zbigniew Libera once requested bricks from LEGO, which they so graciously provided and he went ahead and produced a concentration camp set – complete with the LEGO logo and the words “sponsored by LEGO” were famously printed on the box.
Now LEGO provided the bricks but they didn’t specifically sponsor or endorse that set – and I believe that LEGO weren’t aware of what the end product would look like as well.
Anyway, that’s my 2 cents on this issue. So far, chatter on LEGO forums and Facebook groups have been large supportive of LEGO’s decision so most fans are unfazed. Update: LEGO have also started responding to the outrage on Twitter.
@athenathebold 2/3 anyone is welcome to buy LEGO bricks via our normal sales channels for their projects, we see thousands of projects daily
— LEGO (@LEGO_Group) October 26, 2015
Seems like a fairly level-headed response and a slap in the face to everyone who has been crying
What do you think about this?