Lego changes bulk buy policy after Ai Weiwei backlash

January 13, 2016, 5:00am

Lego says it will ask bulk buy customers to make clear that the group does not support or endorse their projects, if exhibited in public. Photo: Getty Images on BBC News

BBC News

Lego has said it is reversing its policy on bulk purchases and will no longer ask customers what they want to use the bricks for.

The U-turn follows a recent controversy involving Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. In October last year, Ai accused Lego of censorship when it refused to sell its bricks directly to him.

The company said its policy was to reject requests if it believed the bricks would be used to make a political statement. Ai wanted to make an artwork on political dissidents.

The artist ended up using bricks donated to him by the public for an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia.

In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, Lego said it used to ask customers ordering bulk purchases for the "thematic purpose" of their project, as it did not want to "actively support or endorse specific agendas".

"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," it said.

As of 1 January the company will instead ask that customers make clear the group does not support or endorse their projects, if exhibited in public.

Lego's decision to refuse Ai's request angered the artist, who accused the company of censorship and discrimination, and of attempting to define political art.

The artist also linked Lego's stance with plans for a new Legoland in Shanghai. The controversy sparked a public backlash resulting in supporters around the world offering to donate toy bricks.

Ai set up "Lego collection points" in different cities, and ended up making a new series of artworks based on the incident as a commentary on freedom of speech and political art.