Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen the billionaire Maker of Lego has publicly admitted that their reluctance to sell their toys to dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei for an art installation was a huge “mistake”. The toymaker came under scrutiny on social media last autumn following Mr Ai’s revealing that the toy giant Lego had refused an order of the plastic building blocks as they would be “used for political works”.
Lego’s refusal to supply the artist triggered a flood of responses on social media criticising the company for “censorship and discrimination” by refusing Ai’s order. Thousands of anonymous supporters offered to donate their used Legos to the artist. In response Ai Weiwei decided to install collection points for donations of Lego, which he will use to make a new work to defend freedom of speech and ‘political art’.
This was not the first time the Danish toymaker encountered controversy, in the past, Lego turned down the opportunity to have journalist Maia Weinstock to create a custom set which celebrated the female justices of the US supreme court on their ‘Ideas Platform’.
At the time of the controversy it was thought that, the Danish toymaker was moving into the Chinese market as it expanded. Growth in the US had slowed down and the company reported that Asia was the highest area of growth in their market. Lego also invested in a new factory facility in Jiaxing, to increase output of the popular toy
Lego’s deputy chairman, the grandson of the company’s founder, said the decision to deny the artist a bulk order had been due to “an internal mistake.” The order, which Ai planned to use for a show in Australia, had been rejected “very low in the organisation by our consumer service department,” Kirk Kristiansen told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Thursday. The company which is still family-run moved to hand over more power to fourth-generation heir Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, who will take over from his father Kjeld as deputy chairman. Lego-owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen is ranked the world’s 65th richest man according to Forbes magazine, with an estimated fortune of about 11.4 billion euros ($13.1 billion).
In January, Lego said it would no longer ask what its bricks would be used for when making bulk sales, and that customers displaying their Lego creations in public would instead be asked to make it clear “that the Lego Group does not support or endorse the specific projects”. “I am very pleased to say that we are now ready to take certain important steps toward the smooth generational handover that will continue to maintain active family ownership of the Lego Group,” Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen said in a statement Wednesday. His 37-year-old son will also replace him as chairman of the Lego Foundation, which owns 25 percent of the Lego Group, but he will remain chairman of family holding company and majority owner Kirkbi.
Photo: P A Black © 2016