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Ai Weiwei Gifts His Lego Installation to the National Gallery of Victoria

The work pays tribute to Australia's most outspoken human rights activists.
By Tom Clift
December 12, 2015
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Ai Weiwei Gifts His Lego Installation to the National Gallery of Victoria

The work pays tribute to Australia's most outspoken human rights activists.
By Tom Clift
December 12, 2015
  shares

One of the most significant works in the new Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei exhibition will be staying in Melbourne permanently. Speaking at the opening of the exhibition on Thursday night, Ai donated the major installation Letgo Room to the National Gallery of Victoria. Made from more than two million Lego-like bricks, the piece pays tribute to Australian human rights activists who have become symbols for a broader movement – much like the artist himself.

Constructed by a team of nearly 100 local volunteers and artists on directions from Ai, Letgo Room features portraits of 20 Australian activists who have fought for justice and equality on issues including asylum seekers, women's rights, social welfare and freedom of information. Among those depicted in the work are family violence campaigner Rose Batty, barrister Julian Burnside, indigenous activist Dr Gary Foley, journalist Peter Greste, transgender icon norrie mAy-welby and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who Ai met in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London earlier this year.

A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

The Letgo Room received considerable media attention ahead of its construction after Lego refused Ai's bulk order of bricks on the grounds that Lego "cannot approve the use of Legos for political works." Many saw the refusal as being itself political, with the artist pointing out that the company had just inked a deal to open a Legoland in Shanghai. The decision sparked outrage on social media, while many galleries and museums around the world set up Lego donation points, where art lovers could drop off their excess bricks for use in Ai's art.

Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei at the NGV is now open to the public.

Published on December 12, 2015 by Tom Clift

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  • Reader comments...

    Noel Evans - December 22, 2015

    Went to the exhibition and was definitely moved by the gentle protest pieces. The image of Ai's wife (then gf) flashing in Tianamen Square struck me in particular. No, not because she was flashing her underwear, because of the meaning behind it. I was also able to get a better handle on Andy Warhol's work as well, through an 8 year old in fact. Who happen to mention maybe the images represent the way different people see things. Wisdom.

    Jayne - December 12, 2015

    This piece speaks to identity, how many of us share similar aspirations. I feel like I'm on the same team.

    Jayne - December 12, 2015

    Funny how this piece plays with identity, how many of us have similar aspirations and want to move in the same direction. I feel like I'm on the same team.

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