Florida artist Maximo Caminero is facing criminal charges after deliberately dropping a million dollar vase by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in an apparent protest.
Maximo Caminero, 51, was charged with criminal mischief after breaking the $1 million vase on Sunday in Miami.
Police say Maximo Caminero told them he broke the art work in protest at the Perez Art Museum Miami’s failure to exhibit work by local artists.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said he did not support artists destroying other artists’ work.
Ai Weiwei – who was detained in 2011 by China during a crackdown on dissent, and whose relationship with the Chinese authorities remains deeply antagonistic – pointed out that his own work is never shown in China.
The Perez Art Museum is holding an exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s work until mid-March. It includes an artwork, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, depicting Ai Weiwei smashing an ancient Chinese vase.
A security guard told police officers that Maximo Caminero picked up a colored vase that was part of a floor installation, and when told to put it down, smashed it on the floor, according to a police affidavit.
Maximo Caminero said he would hold a news conference on Tuesday to explain the act. The artist told the Miami New Times that he did indeed destroy the vase in protest.
“I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here,” he told the newspaper.
“They have spent so many millions now on international artists.”
Maximo Caminero said he acted spontaneously, inspired by Ai Weiwei’s own art.
The vase he picked up is one of more than a dozen painted in bright colors. They are described by Ai Weiwei as originally made during China’s Han dynasty.
Behind the installation are a series of three black-and-white photos showing Ai Weiwei holding a vase and then letting it drop to the ground, where it smashes into pieces.
“I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest,” Maximo Caminero told the New Times.
However, Ai Weiwei said that his own destruction of vases was “a little different”.
“The work I work on [does] not belong to a museum or other people’s property. I never tried to destroy a museum piece – those vases belong to me. He can drop whatever he likes to drop, but not other people’s property,” the artist told BBC in Beijing.
The artist said he could not comment on the choices made by the museum’s curator, and such choices did not justify the destruction of somebody else’s work.
Ai Weiwei pointed out: “I still don’t have a chance to show my work in China or Beijing. I never even think of going to a museum in Beijing to protest – if I [did], I would be punished.”
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