Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has survived persecution from the Chinese government including months in jail without charge, house arrest and a tax bill of $2.4 million. But it wasn't until Ai's work made it to Florida that it was wantonly destroyed.
Pérez Art Museum Miami is currently hosting an exhibition of Ai's work, featuring an installation called "Colored Vases," where pottery that dates back to the Neolithic period (5,000 - 3,500 B.C.) has been dipped in cheap paint. Writes art curator Mami Kataoka:
Through the medium of ceramics, Ai Weiwei created metaphors suggesting the overpowering of Chinese history and tradition by Western consumer culture, and he posed questions concerning the meaning of the art work’s authenticity, the autonomy of creativity, and the artistic authority, while pointing to the irony that the production of replicas contributes, in fact, to the preservation of traditional craft techniques and traditions.
Maximo Caminero, who claims to be an artist himself, decided to do some overpowering of his own: he grabbed one of Ai's vases and smashed it on the floor.
Caminero told Miami New Times that he destroyed another artist's work to protest the museum's showcase of international artists instead of local talent (like, oh I don't know, Maximo Caminero): "I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here ... They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It's the same political situation over and over again. I've been here for 30 years and it's always the same."
Speaking of millions, that vase was worth $1 million, much to Caminero's surprise.
"I didn't know that it was that amount," he told the New Times. "I feel so sorry about it, for sure."
He added that he thought the vase was "a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly."
And yes, there is video footage:
Caminero said he was inspired by Ai's own work: "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn," a set of photos of Ai dropping one of the vases on the ground.
Because the vase was worth so much, Caminero has been charged with felony criminal mischief, which can put him in jail for up to five years.
Incidentally, the museum in which Caminero chose to lodge his complaint against museums that don't show local artists has
only been open since December, so it's not like it even had that much time to snub Caminero.*
*Correction: Pérez Art Museum Miami was founded in 1984, but housed in a different building and had a different name until this past December. So it actually had three decades to show international artists instead of Caminero. Not that that makes it okay to destroy stuff.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.