Lego has admitted its decision to reject Ai Weiwei’s request for a bulk order of its bricks in 2015 was a “mistake”.
Vice-Chairman Kirk Kristiansen told The Wall Street Journal an employee had misinterpreted the company’s policy on political neutrality.
In October 2015, the Chinese artist said his request was declined because Lego considered his planned exhibition to be too political.
Ai Weiwei is known for criticism of the Chinese government.
He said the decision had been made “very low in the organization by our consumer service department”, and that Lego’s board had not been involved at the time.
Kirk Kristiansen’s son and successor Thomas added: “It is a typical example of what can go wrong in a big company.”
Lego’s refusal to provide bricks for Ai Weiwei’s artwork on political dissidents prompted people around the world to donate bricks at “Lego collection points” set up in different cities.
Ai Weiwei ended up making a new series of artworks based on the incident as a commentary on freedom of speech and political art.
In January 2016, Lego decided to stop asking bulk customers what they wanted to do with the bricks.
It said such customers should instead make clear that Lego does not endorse works shown in public.
The artist said Lego’s U-turn was a victory for freedom of speech.
Ai Weiwei also appeared to react to Lego’s decision by posting a picture on Instagram of a young boy sticking bricks onto his face, accompanied by a grinning emoji caption.