Bob Dylan and Ai Weiwei
Awkward. That's how I imagine Bob Dylan is feeling. His jaunt to China raised the odd eyebrow when it was first made public. Now, with the arrest of Ai Weiwei, those eyebrows have been lowered into scowls and quizzical looks.
"What's the world's most famous protest singer going to do about Ai's detention?" people are asking. "Will he quit the tour? Or at least say something? Surely he will say something? I'm sure he'll say something." And so on.
I'm thinking he'd probably never heard of Ai Weiwei before going to China. Well, he has now. And after a modicum of research he will have found out that the conceptual artist has - as he himself did in the 60s and 70s - made politics a central component of his artistic output.
But there is a difference. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan - the great American post-war academic - Dylan's message was in the medium, whereas Ai Weiwei is the message. When I interviewed him for Newsnight last year, he said he most admired Marcel Duchamp, not for his art, but for his attitude to life.
And this is what he has attempted to emulate. His art is a secondary by-product of his view of the world and his place within it - his attitude to life is the real artwork. So for Ai Weiwei the installation at Tate Modern of his porcelain sunflower seeds is an example of one of his works of art, and his arrest and detention, another.
That is not to say he is pleased to be banged up, or that it is part of some grand artistic plan, but that the man, his politics and his art are one inseparable thing. Which I suspect means that if the roles were reversed, and Bob Dylan was under arrest in China, that Ai Weiwei would probably have had something to say by now.