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Artist Smashes Ai Weiwei Vase to Protest Museum’s Snub of Local Artists

by Hrag Vartanian on February 17, 2014

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Miami-based artist Maximo Caminero, 51, hurled himself into the media spotlight when he dropped a vase that was part of Ai Weiwei’s According to What? retrospective currently at the Perez Art Museum Miami. The shattered item was one of 16 vases that make up “Colored Vases” (2006–12), which was created by the Chinese artist from what are believed to be ancient Chinese vases.

Caminero visited the museum on Sunday, February 16, and proceeded to destroy part of the work.

A view of the undamaged "Colored Vases" artwork as it appeared at the Art Gallery of Ontario last August in Toronto. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

A view of the undamaged “Colored Vases” artwork as it appeared at the Art Gallery of Ontario last August in Toronto. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

The artist is being charged with criminal mischief, which can be punishable by up to five years in prison when the property damaged is valued at more than $1,000. Caminero refused to answer questions from the Associated Press but told them that “he will have an afternoon news conference Tuesday. ‘I’m going to answer all the questions,’ he said.”

The artist told Miami New Times that “he had no idea Weiwei’s work was worth $1 million. ‘I didn’t know that it was that amount,’ he says. ‘I feel so sorry about it, for sure.'”

He explained his motives to the New Times:

“I wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are many foreign artists like myself and others who have been here thirty years and have never received attention or support from MAM or now PAMM and other local museums,” he continues. “We are all taxpayers here and PAMM used $200 million of public money on its building and opened with Weiwei’s work to draw attention to itself and as always continues to ignore local artists.”

Born in the Dominican Republic, Caminero lives and works in Miami, and he is represented by JF Gallery in West Palm Beach, Florida, which maintains a Facebook page with images of his work. According to Miami New Times, Caminero has also shown at the Babacar M’Bow Multitudes Contemporary Art Gallery and the Fountain art fair. His work appears deeply influenced by the work of 20th-century Cuban painter Wifredo Lam.

Caminero’s action evokes Ai Weiwei’s well-known work “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” (1995) that shows the artist destroying an ancient vase by dropping it, though Caminero has not yet claimed that himself.

Ai Weiwei’s Twitter and Instagram feeds have been silent on the matter.

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