The Lego company does many things well.
They manufacture a toy that can withstand 950 pounds of force.
They injure anyone foolish enough to walk into a child's room barefoot.
They get this song stuck in your head...forever.
Despite these many successes, Lego's greatest success is still its most obvious: selling tiny plastic bricks. In fact, the company sells more than 45 billion pieces per year.
So why did the company refuse a bulk order of Legos for Chinese artist Ai Weiwei? Let's assemble the pieces and find out:
According to the company, the request was denied because Lego:
"Cannot approve the use of Legos for political works."
Ai's upcoming project focuses on freedom of speech.
Mystery solved? Not quite, because:
So what's with the discrepancy? Well according to Ai, the answer is that:
So why wouldn't they want to sell to a Chinese artist. Well....
Ai Weiwei and his government don't always click.
Ai's art often focuses on themes of censorship, dissent, and human rights.
At times, he explicitly criticizes the Chinese government, such as when he accused corrupt government officials of permitting building collapses during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
So is there necessarily one right way to assemble these pieces?
Will you judge me if my Lego Death Star looks like a gray hamburger?
While Lego's denial of Ai's request can be seen as either smart corporate policy or censorship, the Ai Weiwei's fans are not waiting for Lego to change its mind.