Updated Jan. 13, 2016 | Lego changed its policy on bulk purchases after initially refusing to sell directly to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, saying at the time that it didn’t want its product used to make a political statement. On Tuesday, Lego issued a new policy, saying it would fulfill bulk orders without regard for their intended use. “I think Lego made a good move, I think this would be a small victory for freedom of speech,” Ai told the BBC. His Melbourne exhibition depicting political dissidents ended up using non-Lego bricks.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is receiving an outpouring of support in the form of Legos. People around the world are offering to send the artist and activist their Legos after the company refused to fulfill his request for a bulk order.
He plans to use the colorful blocks in a work that will be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.
On his Instagram account last week, Ai said Lego told him they could not meet his request because “they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.”
Soon after, supporters began offering on Twitter to ship Ai their Legos. Ai has said he will find a way to accept them.
— Dave Hall (@skwashd) October 25, 2015
— Suzu King (@BellTree127) October 25, 2015
Ai blames Lego business interests in China as reason for their refusal. He notes that just last week, a British company announced it would open a Legoland in Shanghai.
In a statement, Lego reiterated it has a long-standing policy to not become involved in political messaging.
“As a company dedicated to delivering great creative play experiences to children, we refrain — on a global level — from actively engaging in or endorsing the use of LEGO bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda,” the statement reads. “This principle is not new.”
This is not the first time Ai will have used Legos in his work. Last year, he used hundreds of thousands of Legos to create the names and faces of 176 people jailed or exiled for their ideologies. The work was displayed on Alcatraz Island, in a room used as a prisoner workshop.
Ai isn’t the only one scrambling to get Legos though. The company announced earlier that its demand was so high, there might be a shortage as holiday shopping ramps up.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of the company, Lego, not Legos.