21 Performance Artists Who Were Arrested for Their Art

Voting Rules
List only includes artists who were arrested for performing something that they considered to be art

One man's art is another man's felony, it seems. There is a long and colorful history of artists - singers, dancers, jugglers, musicians, puppeteers and more - who have been arrested for performing their art in public. This is a list of performers arrested for their art, whether they were controversial performance artists or just buskers in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You've heard of famous incidents like Jim Morrison's arrest for indecent exposure during a Door's concert or tight-rope walker Philippe Petit illegally wire-walking between the Twin Towers in New York. But for every Morrison or Petit, there is an unsung hero who just wants to juggle lemons, pose nude with tourists, or tie a live chicken to his junk in front of the Eiffel Tower in the name of art.

Which of the following artists were enjoying freedom of expression as opposed to committing crimes? We'll let you decide who is painting a pretty picture of their artistic craft and who is just certifiable.

  • Wire-Walker Illegally Waltzes Between the Twin Towers

    Philippe Petit became world famous in 1974 when he did a high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. All charges were dropped in exchange for him doing a performance for children in Central Park. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Petit in the 2015 film The Walk.
  • Filmmaker Gets Year in Prison for Filming Bank Robbery

    Filmmaker Joe Gibbons was sentenced to one year in prison after he pleaded guilty to third-degree felony robbery for stealing $1,002 from a NYC Chinatown bank and filming it all on a pocket-size pink and silver video camera. He claimed it was "performance art," but law enforcement was not entertained.
  • "Naked Selfie Performance" at the Eiffel Tower Goes Predictably Wrong

    Swiss artist Milo Moiré spent a night in jail after being arrested in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris after saying "oui, oui" to taking naked selfies with tourists. She was cited for public indecency.
  • Brooklyn Street Dancer Busted While Busting a Move

    Brooklyn break-dancer Khrist Newman was tackled and arrested before he could even start his routine. The NYPD says he was playing music without a permit, while Newman says he intends to sue the city.
  • Bubble Blower Learns Juggling Lemons Is Illegal in Santa Cruz

    Internationally renowned bubble-blowing artist Tom Noddy was reportedly arrested and jailed for juggling lemons in Santa Cruz, violating an ordinance against footballs, hackeysacks, baseballs, beach balls, Frisbees, bubble-blowing, and juggling. Maybe bubbles are a safer practice?
  • Artist Ties Live Animal to His Penis, Is Arrested

    South African artist Steven Cohen was booked in Paris for sexual exhibitionism. He had paraded around Trocadero Square clad in a bird costume, high heels and a live rooster tied to his genitals. He was found guilty, but no sentence was imposed. What the cluck?