Lego VC: Denying Ai Weiwei bricks "a mistake"

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen has said someone at a lower level made the decision not to allow Ai Weiwei the bricks he requested for an Australian art exhibition and that he should have received them.

Following a now infamous dispute last year with artist Ai Weiwei, the vice-chairman of family-owned Lego has admitted to the Wall Street Journal that refusing to supply bricks to the Chinese artist and dissident was a "mistake".

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, grandson of the founder of Lego, told the WSJ in an interview that Lego’s board was not involved in the decision.

In October last year, Lego was at the centre of a social media storm after the company refused to provide Ai (pictured) with blocks for an installation at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne because it was too political.

At the time, Ai said in an Instagram post that Lego could not "approve the use of Legos for political works".

As a result, Ai set up a global donation initiative and received hundreds of thousands of Lego blocks from supporters around the world.

Three months later, Lego softened its position by removing from its guidance the need to know a Lego buyer’s "thematic purpose" before supplying bricks, in direct response to the brand damage it suffered following the incident with Ai.

It said there had been "misunderstandings" over the previous policy that needed clearing up.

Now, Kristiansen has admitted the whole incident was an error, stemming from Ai’s request being denied "very low in the organisation by our consumer service department".

"It was an internal mistake," he said. "It is a typical example of what can go wrong in a big company."

Kristiansen also denied Ai’s suggestions that Lego’s initial decision was based on a desire to protect its business in China.

Ai told the WSJ that he welcomed Lego’s reversal, but that it had come a bit too late. 

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