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How "Young Thug As Paintings" went from a viral Instagram account to an art exhibit

A 23-year-old student turned her Instagram account into a real world art project.

MIAMI BEACH, FL — The viral Instagram account Young Thug As Paintings made its real world debut in early December at SCOPE Art Show during Miami Art Week.

Hajar Benjida, a 23-year-old photography student based in the Netherlands, created the account in 2016 by matching photos of her favorite artist, the Atlanta rapper Young Thug, with similar-looking classical paintings. The project quickly went viral and now has over 63,000 followers. “It's very accessible, like, you don't even have to know [Young Thug], but people get to know about him,” Benjida told VICE News. “People get to know about historical art. The same way you analyze historical paintings is the same way I analyze Thug's photos.”

Benjida started comparing pictures of Young Thug to classic art as a last-minute assignment for school. But the idea really found its audience on the internet. She worked for months on different concepts that could bring the popular Instagram account to life, including, a fleeting idea for a pop-up installation in Atlanta. Benjida finally linked up with Young Thug’s record label, 300 Entertainment, and the New York-based production team at Kristian Kirk to put the art fair exhibition together.

But even with that support, getting it to Miami Beach wasn’t easy.

This year, Miami Art Week hosted over 1,300 exhibitions from all over the world. Most of them were sponsored by galleries, which makes Young Thug As Paintings, which has no curatorial backing, a significant outlier. VICE News went to Miami Beach to watch the exhibit unfold and get Young Thug’s reaction to seeing himself as fine art.

This segment originally aired December 17, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.