A local Miami artist caused a big scene at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Sunday by picking up and smashing a $1 million vase by Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. His reason was that he was protesting PAMM for not featuring enough local artists. Witnesses on the scene described that Maximo Caminero walked over to the display, picked up one of the 16 vases from the ground, then after a security guard ordered him to put it down, he promptly dropped it. The vase smashed into hundreds of little pieces on the floor and the $1 million value was instantly destroyed along with it.
Authorities are said to be working with the museum in the investigation and it is reported that the culprit of the crime, Maximo Caminero, could face up to five years in jail for his brazen act of protest. He admits that he never knew how much the vase was worth but still stands by what he did. Caminero, a 51-year-old Dominican-born artist living in Miami, stated that local artists are rarely given the opportunity to be showcased in PAMM; instead they spend millions of dollars on international artists. He adds that he has been living in Miami for 30 years and sees the same situation over and over, where international artists are favoured over local artists.
The $1 million vase was part of an exhibit by renowned Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. It tells the story of Chinese culture and history from his point of view, highlighting the tragedies of different Chinese refugee communities. Part of the display contains rebar collected from homes and buildings destroyed by the Szechuan earthquake in 2008. One piece in particular is from a school in which 5,000 children were said to have died. Refugees from the 1992 Hurricane Andrew in South Miami-Dade were also represented as many people lost their homes due to poor construction that did not stand up against the high winds. In another part of the exhibit, photographs of the construction of the Beijing Olympic stadium are on display. Ai Weiwei was a consultant along with architects from Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss firm that made the design for PAMM.
When Ai Weiwei was contacted about the incident, he stated that there is nothing to be done, the art itself is physical and that “it’s already over.” He also added that the argument did not support the act, possibly hinting that breaking the vase did not make its point of protesting for local art the way Caminero has intended. In an interesting coincidence, whether intentional or not by Caminero, the destroying of the vase replicates one of Ai Weiwei’s previous works from 1995. In this piece, Ai Weiwei created images in black and white of the destruction of a centuries-old Han-dynasty urn. The work is appropriately titled Dropping the Urn.
The museum is likely to have repercussions now that a $1 million art piece has been so easily destroyed, but it has remained open along with Ai Weiwei’s exhibit. Museum security consultant for Ormond Beach-based Museum Association Security Committee, Steve Keller, said that incidents such as this are not common, but they do happen. He believes that PAMM will provide additional security now after the local artist’s protest. although it is a balancing act because sometimes it is hard to give the public an intimate experience without having some sort of risk.
By Lian Morrison
The New York Times