Artist Ai Wei Wei’s Instagram is Beijing’s answer to The Sartorialist (bet you didn’t see that one coming, Chinese government)

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Art has always been considered several steps above fashion: an interest in Renoir is intellectual, but a fascination with Fendi is considered trivial. This myth is shattered by Chinese dissenter and artist Ai Wei Wei’s Instagram feed.

But then what would Wei be doing if he wasn’t smashing silly notions. Oh, right, he’d be the token minority extra in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Hanging out with Bono, perhaps?

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Or, he could be casually flipping the bird alongside Julien Assange, Wikileaks founder, and his homie.

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Maybe, with Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor.

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When he’s not hobnobbing with fellow political dissenters and artists, he spends his time cagily wearing a basket for a hat (and totally rocking it.)

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Wei’s account is brimming with selfies. A habit that has long perplexed The Guardian. A confusion that shows up every now and then like in this profile of Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom:

 Even Ai Weiwei uses Instagram for selfies’  

It’s true, though. And when he’s not straight up, like:

he is cussing, but with pebbles laid on his chest. (#FreeTheNipple for all of us, Wei.)

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It wasn’t always Bono and beaches for Wei. In 2011, the Chinese government cracked down on many of its dissenters. As he was an open critic of the regime, Wei was among those targetted. He was arrested and incarcerated for 81 days. Charged with “economic offenses”, he was banned from leaving his country.

Yet, he continued making art so daring, even the Smithsonian wondered whether he was China’s most dangerous man. He received his passport in June this year.

But, Wei’s eye was busy during those four years. When they  forbade him from going any further than their borders, the Chinese government thought they were punishing the man. Instead, Wei managed to see beauty and oddity all over Beijing, a city that has been once called a “dingy fug.

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Many of the pictures seem to be taken at random — I actually don’t think he’s trying to photograph the fashion. It’s just that Wei’s sense of colour, texture and photography is so tight, he can’t help but be China’s answer to the Sartorialist.

He captures a vibrant – sometimes hip, sometimes grim, always interesting – side of Beijing that is near invisible in mainstream media. Now, here’s some proof that we’re not joking, and I’m not crazy.

1.Hand over the dress and nobody gets hurt

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2. The “You don’t get to stare at my boobs while pretending to read what’s written on my Tee” shirt

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3. The Boxed Man with awesome graphic tee

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4. Beige-zing bikers

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5. Among all the other things, don’t miss these gorgeous rings

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6. When you put together a killer outfit, and your five-year-old is like, “Mom, you’d look prettier if you also wore my hat”

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7.  The #90sKid classic: stripes and white converse

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8. The stripes on stripes done Wei-style (using his son)

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9. Poverty is their sin, said Wei to a fan who commented that these guys looked shifty

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10. Chinese Wednesday Adams

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11. The “always achieve the right Skype angle” sunnies

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Colleagues, family, random people on the road all seem to be fair game. Even himself.

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All the images used in this post are from Ai Wei Wei’s Instagram account. (duh.)

Avantika Mehta
Written by

Editor, Pyjama People

Avantika Mehta used to be a lawyer, resident Blue Frog party freak and proud wearer of harem pants curated from Kasol. Then she became a writer and it all went downhill. Famous Scottish journalists have been known to call her ‘a volatile woman.’

Twitter @bitingfriends / Instagram: @bitingfriends

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