Ai Weiwei in front of "Tree", 2015
A site-specific work made of reassembled pieces
of dead wood from southern China and
installed in the courtyard of The Royal Academy, London
According to various news sources, Ai Weiwei had placed an order for a large quantity of Lego bricks for an art installation to be created at a gallery in Australia. Because of Ai Weiwei's reputation as a dissident artist, and the proposed artwork's theme of freedom of speech, The Lego Group refused to fill the order on the grounds that they "cannot approve the use of Legos for political works". Not to be too cynical, but it seems rather ironic that this private company, the world's biggest toymaker, does not seem to have a problem with the recently proposed Legoland amusement park to be built in Shanghai, China. But I digress.
In what is becoming almost typical of Ai Weiwei, he has managed to turn this "act of censorship and discrimination" into a publicity coup for him and a nightmare for Lego. London's Royal Academy was the first to respond and they did so with style. Since October 30th, a second-hand BMW sedan has been parked in the museum's courtyard with the sunroof left open as a collection point for Lego blocks. The response has been amazing and other museums have followed suit with similar model BMW sedans parked at The Brooklyn Museum, New York, the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin and The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia to name a few.
"The art always wins. Anything can happen to me but the art will stay", The Economist, May 2012.