When Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) opened its doors during Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2013, it displayed an exhibit by the prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. A couple of months later, in February 2014, a local painter strolled into the museum and, in an act of political protest, smashed one of the million-dollar vases in Ai Weiwei’s exhibit.
Coincidentally, Ai is known for creating politically charged art. A placard on the wall of the exhibit read, “Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists internationally recognized as a result of his actions that challenge the political status quo.”
Ai’s reputation precedes him, which is likely why the artist was rebuffed by the toy-brick manufacturer when he tried to place a bulk order for a future art piece. The company’s reason: It could not “approve the use of Legos for political works.”
The artist took to social media to share his disdain, and after an outcry from fans saying they would give him their old Lego pieces, Ai Weiwei Studio came up with a plan. Using his connections, Ai set up various collection points across the globe so that people can donate the building blocks that Lego refused to provide. At each collection site, donators are asked to drop their Lego pieces through the sunroof of a BMW. No particular reason was given as to why the donation bin is a BMW, but the artist did share collection instructions on his social media page.
Lego Collection Point Instructions:
- Ai Weiwei Studio is organizing a number of Collection Points in different cities.
- Ai Weiwei would like to rent, borrow, or buy second-hand a BMW 5S Series sedan, of which the color can vary, as a Lego container. The vehicle must have clear windows and a sunroof that can be fixed open with a five-centimeter opening so that people can insert Legos. It should be free of any advertising or other decoration.
- The car should be parked and locked in a central location of the city that can be easily accessed by the public. The vehicle should remain in the parking space for one month or a longer period of time, preferably in a location related to arts or culture, indoor or outdoor.
- Ai Weiwei Studios will be solely responsible for the custody and removal of the Lego container.
- Ai Weiwei will indicate the location of the containers.
The Lego pieces were initially slated to be a part of the “Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei” exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, opening in December, but the artist’s inspirations have since shifted. Now, with all the donated building blocks, he plans to create art with a more politically fueled message directly related to artistic censorship and discrimination.
All over the world, from the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Switzerland to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada, museums are collecting Legos for Ai Weiwei, and today PAMM joins the effort.