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Clash with artist Ai Weiwei forces policy change at LEGO

Let go of my Legos!

After a clash with Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei got out of control, Lego Group announced a policy change on bulk orders of Legos.

"As of January 1st, the LEGO Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of LEGO bricks for projects. Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear - if they intend to display their LEGO creations in public - that the LEGO Group does not support or endorse the specific projects," said the company in a statement posted on their website.

They went on to say that the purpose of Lego Group is to inspire kids through creative play, not to actively support or endorse specific agendas of individuals or organizations.

In September, Lego declined to provide the artist with Legos for an art exhibit in Australia because it was political in nature. Members of the public responded by donating bricks to the artist who went ahead with his project as planned.

Roswell-based Lego-aficionado, Harry Nijenkamp , who builds major LEGO installations isn't surprised the company reversed the policy.

"They sell bulk to people who do things like I do, but it is not really a focus of their company," says Nijenkamp who owns Dutch Masters painting. "What Lego in general does is they stay away from anything that has to do with religion, military, politics or anything controversial."

In 2014, for example, Lego ended a decades long partnership with Shell after a Greenpeace led protest over the oil giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic.

Nijenkamp, whose most recent Lego model required a million bricks and costs $4,000 just to move it from location to location, says he almost never orders in bulk from the Lego Group. Instead, he uses a website formed by an international group of individuals who buy and sell Lego bricks.

"Lego concentrates on selling, distributing and manufacturing bricks," says Nijenkamp. "The rest of it, they don't care about."

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.