Ai Weiwei was refused a bulk order of Lego for a forthcoming show at Australia's National Gallery of Victoria because the company "cannot approve the use of Legos for political works", the prominent Chinese artist said on Instagram.
On Instagram, Weiwei said: "Lego's refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination."
Weiwei has been detained by Chinese authorities for his work as a political activist. On his release he described conditions as "a kind of mental torture".
Earlier this week he accused the British government of ignoring human rights issues in China.
After the artist's message went out, people began sending their own Lego to Ai Weiwei.
One man said Ai was welcome to "borrow" his lego.
Some offered their own "political" version of Lego.
Support for Ai was huge.
On Twitter, Ai received the donations gratefully.
On Instagram, Ai wrote that Lego had said its trademark "cannot be used commercially in any way to promote, or name, the art work".
Lego's head of marketing for Australia, Troy Taylor, told ABC News that the brand refrains from "actively engaging in or endorsing the use of Lego bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda". He added that this was not a new approach from the Lego group.
"The title of the artwork cannot incorporate the LEGO trademark," Ai wrote.
The artwork in question is part of Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei, due to open in Melbourne in December. "The artwork's concept relates to freedom of speech," Weiwei said.
Some were reminded of the somewhat warmer reception Warhol received when including a brand in an artwork.
A spokesperson for the National Gallery Victoria told the Herald Sun newspaper that it was working with Ai on another artwork.
"The work will be a new installation focusing on Australian activists, advocates and champions of human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the internet," the spokesperson said. "We are very much looking to seeing the final form this work will take."
Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Laura Silver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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