Activist Ai planning to hold a show in Michigan

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Activist Ai planning to hold a show in Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan - An exhibition of work by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is planned for 2017 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Michigan, officials announced Tuesday.

The show titled “Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural, State” is billed as his first at a botanic garden.

Ai spent nearly three months in prison in China in 2011 amid a sweeping crackdown on activists, and in 2014 he directed the transformation of the former island prison of Alcatraz into a tribute to political prisoners.

Last year, Meijer Gardens celebrated its 20th anniversary in part with the installation of Ai’s outdoor sculpture “Iron Tree.” The “Natural, State” exhibition will open Jan. 27.

Meanwhile, Ai said last week that a change in policy by Lego to allow bulk orders of its toy bricks for projects with a political purpose is a victory for freedom of expression.

The Lego Group last year refused a bulk order for the toy bricks for an exhibition of Ai’s in Melbourne, Australia. Ai called that move “an act of censorship and discrimination,” but Lego said it had a decades-old policy of not endorsing the use of its bricks in projects with a “political agenda.”

On Jan. 12, Lego announced that it would no longer ask what the “thematic purpose” of a project is. Instead, customers who intend to display their creations in public will be asked to make clear that Lego does not support or endorse them. Asked whether it was in response to Ai’s case, the toy-maker said it had been asked whether it supports human rights and freedom of expression. In an email, spokesman Roar Rude Trangbaek wrote: “We always have and continue to do - this is at the heart of what Lego play is all about. ... We hope the new guidelines will make it more clear what we stand for.”

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