BEIJING, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Lego has refused to sell its bricks to Ai Weiwei in a move the Chinese artist has slammed as an act of "censorship and discrimination."
The Danish company had declined Ai's bulk order of plastic bricks for a December Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Sky News reported Monday.
According to the Chinese artist, Lego told the museum the bricks could not be sold for artworks containing "any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements," the BBC reported.
In 2014, Ai used Lego bricks to create portraits of 175 dissidents either imprisoned or exiled, including Nelson Mandela and Edward Snowden. Those artworks were displayed near Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. This time however, Lego refused to fulfill the artist's order of bricks, and said it has never sold directly to anyone wanting to use its product to make a political statement.
Ai also has produced a series of photographs that depict his middle finger raised before seats of political power in Beijing, Hong Kong, Washington, D.C., and Berlin. In 2011, Ai was detained for 81 days by Chinese authorities, placed under house arrest and had his passport confiscated.
Ai's fans showed signs of immediate support after the artist took to social media in protest, and established Lego collection points in different cities.
"This is the first phase of the coming projects," read an Instagram post under Ai's account. Later updates showed images of Lego donations in different cities.
Ai also used playful sarcasm to mock the Danish company. Referring to the The Lego Movie's slogan "everything is awesome," Ai tweeted, "Lego will tell us what to do, or not to do. That is awesome!" Later he wrote, "Lego is giving us the definition of what is 'political', and all the big corporations are telling us what to love or hate. That is awesome."
The artist said Lego's position is linked to the company's interests in a new Legoland in Shanghai. Lego said that the theme park was being built by another enterprise, but that it does have some ties to Merlin Entertainment and its use of the Lego brand.