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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Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

37 replies on “Artist Smashes Ai Weiwei Vase to Protest Museum’s Snub of Local Artists”

  1. Did Maximo ever consider that his art might just suck, and that he launched Ai Weiwei into the spotlight while looking like an asshole?

    1. welllll Ai Weiwei’s one of the most famous artists living now, so if anything, the only new publicity is directed towards Maximo. But yeah, this guy’s work is just weak and inaccessible; its sad that his frustration with celebrity and success had to play out like this.

      1. I just suggested the same thing. But I don’t think Weiwei will openly support it because that might encourage more art to be destroyed. He’ll remain silent, I think.

      1. I may have been overly critical, Meow. Is smashing a centuries old Han Dynasty Urn any more destructive than painting it? 🙂 But artists should create not destroy. Weiwei is a fellow artist after all.

  2. Caminero’s statement is disingenuous. I think MAM/PAMM does alright by its artists. There are a few pieces, I can think of 8, on display right now, many more in the collection, a caribbean exhibition taking Weiwei’s place, Edgard Duval Carrie exhibition replacing the Palaez retrospective, Adler Guerrier in October, New Work Miami every 3 yrs. Could it more? Sure. Does it a lot? I think so. All he had to do what read the bilingual labels on the wall.

  3. In my opinion, Maximo Caminero’s art gesture is much stronger and relevant to the context of the modern western museum in capitalist society than original Ai Wei Wei’s one, that is just another example of post-colonial perception of another cultures by global art-market. Now this vase must be 2 million in price, but hopefully no one will be able to buy it any more. Smash capitalism.

    1. The problem is never in the form of government but the people who are a part of it. There is no perfect government with capitalism and more importantly democracy, if kept in check, is pretty great!

    2. Going to smash a vase in front of Dasha Zhukova’s Garage in Moscow to support Caminero’s action. They spend millions to bring Pino’s collection or make a retrospective of Rothko’s works and don’t give a shit about local artists. The way art-market works: well known artists becoming world celebrities and all the others deserve to die. Here is another tragical example around Banksy:

  4. So Maximo appropriated Ai’s appropriation art in an inappropriate manner? It’s interesting that this act apparently nullifies the actual artwork and forces us into a situation where we’re reviewing the artists instead of their artwork.

    1. Well, lets face it.. Ai’s career in the US has ALWAYS been more about him and his persecution by the chinese government than it is about his tepid, magpie art.

  5. I have never seen Caminero’s work so I cannot comment on how he might stand as a painter. His action in this instance however has a kind of power, a rude gesture at the money and nauseating, parasitic oligarchy which holds dominion in our world today and no more so than in Miami with it’s gaudy, annual “Art Miami”. His action is a perfect rhyme with Ai Weiwei’s, which makes it humorous, even moreso when you watch the video of these people commenting about what happened. Ai has regularly made politically defiant gestures at great personal risk and he has paid dearly for them. We will see if Caminero is a “one hit wonder” or if this is only the beginning.

  6. Like it or not Maximo has a point. A museum that uses public money to promote a rich artist and ignore other talent is committing a fraud on the very public it is supposed to serve.

    1. Our museums were bought off by the art establishment long ago. Very few represent the public. They document dollar signs. Period. That is what happens when you allow former art dealers and other mainstream art professionals, if you will, serve as directors. Not to mention that most of our major museums have an intellectual hard-on for NYC. I’m sorry folks, by NYC is NOT the end all, be all of art in the United States. There is much, MUCH more going on. To suggest otherwise is absurd.

  7. Tony Shafrazi 2.0. … or at least he could be had he not said he felt bad about how much that unremarkable vase was worth.

  8. Having worked in a Colorado museum, I’ve witnessed a lot of similar resentment from local artists who felt ignored.

    Unfortunately, their art was often not that great.
    But, neither is Wei Wei’s.
    So, if you’re going to spend taxpayer money on mediocre art, the museum should try to make people happy beyond the slavishly trend-following curators.

    1. Because art collectors, gallerists, and museum curators want to have the image of fighting for free expression without actually doing or saying anything that might be controversial to their sacred cows and other collections, gallerists, curators or dealers… and making Ai Wei Wei famous and overpriced no matter how mediocre his work is lets them do that.

  9. Ai’s probably laughing at how seriously people are taking this and also could have sympathy for Maximo. Maximi’s art is good but it is out of fashion and that’s just about all there is to the contemporary art world these days. There are artist in Miami who are very fashionable and probably will end up at this museum- but the problem in my view is the style that is being appreciated is very heady and lacks the creative spark and hard work that artwork is capable of. If anything Maximo has started a conversation of why certain art of today is appreciated and others are considered out of step.

  10. PAMM shows plenty of local artists, they just dont show this guy. This was not a protest on behalf of others, it was a tantrum

  11. While I do not defend this particular way of protest, I fully support his point about Museums being more focused on easy bucks and renown than in actually showcasing artists in their own community. Here in SF we have the same problem. I also lived in FL for a while (which I hated, most cultural institutions there are a cultural wasteland) and could appreciate the emphasis museums have over there on artists from everywhere else except from the Caribbean. As a person of Caribbean origin myself, I sensed a palpable disdain for our culture and for the region, to which Florida (especially South FL) belongs, whether they like it or not, both geographically and geopolitically. I like Mr. Caminero’s work and hopefully will see it exhibited somewhere else in a future time. I find it interesting that some people in this forum find his work “weak” and “inaccessible” while maybe championing the crap that passes for “cutting edge art” these days. Diversity, culture and identity matter, not just the dominant (i.e., what the market determines) ones.

  12. I know, I know, I know…you’re going to hate me for saying this, but are we really talking about a destroyed vase while people are being slaughtered in Syria and other in North Korea camps? Those are also international incidents and the world is looking the other way. There I said it and feel better for saying so.

    1. I am the editor-in-chief of the publication and I have family in Syria currently living through the civil war. So, I’d appreciate if you not try to give me a lesson in priorities. Sometime we have to think about other things.

  13. The art world is all about getting noticed.Vandalizing something attached to a famous name is a tried and true method. Of course I might add that most work now desperately wants to be known for shocking irreverence . No, that was true long ,long ago. Most art now wants to be in the club.

  14. Ai Weiwei will be judged by history, but he will pay a price for his special choice, which is the same in any society.

    So Weiwei in his infinite wisdom should understand his brother in arms… but maybe since he is a victim/heroin of capitalism now, and a shrewd businessman from the start, he will (re)act like the ones he formerly accused; like big fat egocentric moneymaking buddhas do… he has a big hat full of old jokes, nothing more nothing less

  15. .. as Ai Weiwei laughs like a mad man because the insurance check is more than worth it.

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