Celebrate Ai Weiwei’s 58th Birthday With a Look at His Best Instagram Artworks

Image: Courtesy Instagram.

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has been making headlines for years. The artist has kept his fans updated on his whereabouts and condition on Twitter since 2009, but his Instagram presence has been more elusive.

In 2011, the artist was stopped by Chinese officials as he was about to board a flight from Beijing Airport. They arrested him, raided his studio and his home, taking laptops and other electronics, and detained his wife and eight of his studio assistants.

Ai spent 3 months in jail, where was subjected to psychological torture and once released, he was told that he could not leave China.

To celebrate Ai’s 58th birthday, the return of his passport and his roster of upcoming shows, artnet News has put together his best Instagram posts:

Ai Weiwei, passport image.Photo: Courtesy the artist's Instagram.

Ai Weiwei, passport image.
Photo: Courtesy the artist’s Instagram.

1. That time we knew he was back in the game.

Last month, artnet News announced that after 4 years Ai’s passport had finally been returned to him. He was stripped of his documents following his 2011 sentencing. While the Chinese authorities claimed that they withheld his passport because they found evidence of tax evasion, the wider public saw the confiscation as the government’s way of silencing the artist’s political voice.

2. That time he wrote in pebbles on his chest.

A few weeks ago Ai spent the day at the beach with his wife and son. After posting a few pictures of his family enjoying the water, he lay down and decorated his chest with stones that neatly spelled out the word FUCK. We wonder if he’s worried that his 90-ton steel installation for the Royal Academy is going to break through the museum’s floors.

3. That time he posted his friend sitting on the toilet.

With nearly 8,000 posts on the popular social media site, it makes sense that the artist would have some photos of intimate activities. He regularly updates his 134,000 followers with photographs of his daily life so that everyone knows what is happening in Weiwei world every single day.

4. That time he posed with a Chinese dragon mask.

Ai Weiwei is the art king of selfies. While he enjoys being center of attention, he’s also big on the two-man selfie and has posted images of himself with Pussy Riot, German actor Daniel Bruhl, the Mayor of Berlin and the German Commissioner for Human Rights, just to name a few.

5. That time we found out he was a contortionist.

No, we didn’t know this was possible either. But the artist actually has quite a lot up his sleeve that you may not have expected. Did you know that he was a blackjack pro in the 1980s, or that he used to babysit and mow lawns to pay the rent?

6. That time he used chopsticks to keep his eyes open.

Is Ai reminiscing the time a student crushed one of his crabs by mistake in this photo? Or is he trying to decide whether or not he should pour paint all over another fashion collection? Maybe he was up late planning his upcoming Beijing exhibition, his first solo show since 2011.

7. That time he had a passport-shaped cake decked with an edible model of him riding an alpaca, naked.

The artist found himself in serious trouble with the Chinese authorities when he published photographs of himself naked with just a toy alpaca covering his genitals. The waiter looks worried, but we applaud the activist’s humor–who else can get away with using marzipan to mock the fact that they can’t leave the country?

8. That time he took a mirrored selfie in his underwear.

As most of his posts are either without caption or with a description in Chinese, more often than not it’s pretty difficult for English language audiences to work out the artist’s bizarre posts. This doesn’t look like it was taken at the ridiculously grand, Blenheim Palace nor does it strike us as the set of The Sand Storm, the sci-fi film Weiwei was set to star in last year. We wonder why the loo flush selfie didn’t go as viral as the passport selfie.

9. That time he wore a bag as a hat, and rocked it.

Was he celebrating the news that the Miami artist who smashed one of his vases at the Perez Museum had been charged with probation and a $10,000 fine? Or had he just received news that his Zodiac Heads sold at auction for $4.4 million? Who knows, but surely there was a reason that the artist posed for this photo with a bag on his head, right?

10. That time he struck the same pose as Andy Warhol.

In February artnet News reported that the Chinese artist and Andy Warhol would have a joint show at the Andy Warhol Museum next summer.

11. That time he Skyped into a staff meeting, nude.

When he wasn’t allowed to travel, Ai used Skype and FaceTime to communicate with his family and studio, both based in Berlin. Earlier this year, he was even asked to direct a movie that producer, Claus Clausen, was filming in Berlin, over Skype.

When artnet News asked him in an exclusive interview how the Chinese government might react to his engagement in international projects, he replied, “I don’t think they pay much attention to these things. I’m talking about something quite abstract in general—the human condition.”

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