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Ai Weiwei Responds to Vase Dropper

A GIF version of unverified video footage found by the BBC of Caminero dropping the Ai vase (GIF by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

In his first remarks since local artist Maximo Caminero smashed a vase in one of his artworks on view at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Ai Weiwei told the Associated Press that he doesn’t understand or agree with the vandal’s actions. “Damaging other people’s property or disturbing a public program doesn’t really support his cause,” Ai said. That cause, according to Caminero, is getting PAMM and other Miami museums to show more local artists.

Caminero destroyed the vase, a Han Dynasty urn repainted by Ai as part of the work “Colored Vases” (2006–12), on Sunday, February 16. At the time, he told reporters that he was inspired by photos on display in the same room of Ai himself dropping and breaking a vase — another famous piece by the Chinese artist, called “Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn” (1995). “I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest,” Caminero said then. Ai told the AP that he finds this “misleading. You cannot stand in front of a classical painting and kill somebody and say that you are inspired by [the artist]. … This doesn’t make any sense.”

Ai Weiwei’s “Colored Vases” (2006–12) and “Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn” (1995) on view at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, before the vandalism (photo by Patrick Farrell for Visit Florida, via Flickr) (click to enlarge)

Some people have questioned whether Ai is being hypocritical or taking himself too seriously, but it seems pretty clear that the issue here is ownership: “Ai Wei Wei, I believe, has owned in one way or other the things that he has destroyed [in his art]. [Caminero] was destroying someone else’s property. That strikes me as a form of vandalism and not a form of art,” said Kerry Brougher, interim director of the Hirshhorn Museum and organizer of the exhibition Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950, in an interview with the Washington Post.

And what would that property be without a value? News outlets have reported the vase as being worth $1 million, a figure that apparently comes from the Florida police affidavit for the incident. Asked about that sum by the AP, Ai called it “exaggerated” and “a very ridiculous number.”

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