Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and well-known activist, is one of the best of brightest contemporary artists of our generation – so naturally he has been detained by Chinese authorities for “Economic Crimes”.
This puzzled me at first – was he starting a Ponzi scheme? Was he involved in sub-prime mortgage financing? Did he have insider stock information? Probably not and I doubt anyone (including Mr. Weiwei) knows until the Chinese Government completes its fabrication of documents and press releases to justify silencing a critical voice.
But wait … you know what … he probably is guilty of economic crimes because all artists I know tend to break the law in the same ways that all involve finances. We could all, without doubt, be arrested by our various governments for any number of petty disorganized crimes. I’ve made a brief list below of the most universal of “rainbow collar” crimes …
4. We are too unprofitable for too long yet keep doing art: Yep, this is crime usually to both the artist families and at least to the Canadian Revenue Agency. Seriously – artists will get audited if you keep showing a loss for too long while claiming expenses such as studio space, camera equipment, etc. There have been documented cases of the tax auditor advising the artist to change the subject matter of their art (“why don’t you take pictures of horses? people like that”). or give up being an artist entirely (“you can paint on weekends, in your spare time”).
3. Artists will take cash for paintings and not pay tax on it: No other profession does this. Ever. And if all artists actually did not accept cash but only cheques with a receipt and a registered tax number as an independent contractor then we would not have a national debt to contend with at the moment.
2. Drinking wine at art openings without an official permit: I wrote about this in a previous post and it is stunning both in its Kafka-esque absurdness and the total lack of anyone else giving a shit, but serving and consuming a glass of wine at an art opening in Ontario is highly illegal. But that is puritan behaviour as industry law – what is relevant to this list is that you need to buy a special $50 permit to serve wine at your art opening. Many artists do not buy a permit for their two bottles of wine. This is an economic crime and worse – a crime against humanity. Everyone knows that civilization as we know it would crumble if we do not buy permits from the government to have an art opening.
1. Taking public funding and creating art critical of the government: If getting a grant to prepare for an exhibit, the least artists could do is say really nice things about authority.