A Brief Survey of Artists in Trouble with the Law

Artists are only human. Whether it’s their dissident views, bohemian spirits, malevolent character flaws, or just bad timing, sometimes they find themselves behind bars. Here are just some of art history’s alleged law offenders and their varied crimes — from Ai Weiwei’s constant struggle with tyrannical government hounds to a wild night with Willem De Kooning that ended in a drunken jaunt around the beach and an arrest for indecent exposure. The details of those crimes are, naturally, iffy, buried in history, tabloid exaggerations and conflicting reports. Or, in Willem De Kooning’s case, sherry daze. Read all about it!

Ai Weiwei

Artist Ai Weiwei has been a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities for criticizing the government’s stance on human rights and democracy and investigating corruption, namely, the cover-up of the tragic collapse of “tofu-skin” schools during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He has been arrested, beaten by the police, beaten by the police for reporting beatings by the police, kidnapped, imprisoned for three months, speculatively charged with “tax evasion,” and had his Internet profiles murdered… as the world watched. In a recent press interview, he said, “I think it’s improper that a country is engaging in shameless activities. And for a country like that, I will fight them to the death. I think I win morally.”