A Florida resident has been charged with criminal mischief after he smashed a $1 million colored vase made by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei at the new Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Maximo Caminero, an artist himself, is said to have smashed the vase in an act of protest, police said in the affidavit.
Caminero was holding the vase and only decided to smash the valuable item when he was told to put it down, according to the security guard who was also quoted in the police affidavit. The accused, who is a painter from Miami, told officers his rationale for smashing the was he was so incensed at the lack of displays by local artists at PAMM. In his opinion, there were too many items from non-local and foreign artists. The offense Caminero has been charged with can result in five years in prison. That is generally the case when property is valued in excess of $1,000. Caminero did not want to comment on the incident – instead he has scheduled a news conference later today. There he is expected to explain how and why he smashed an Ai Weiwei vase at Perez Art Museum Miami. However, there has been no mention as to whether he will take questions from reporters or which media will be present to cover the event.
The incident is embarrassing for the museum as it is a new venue looking to build its reputation as a serious option for artists to showcase their work. Although the building was founded as the Center for the Fine Arts in 1984 – it changed 12 years later to Miami Art Museum – it only became PAMM in 2013 following a lot of cosmetic work. Displaying art from such an esteemed artist was seen as a major coup for the Miami museum and now it has to face a major public relations disaster.
For those unfamiliar with the name Ai Weiwei, he was an artistic consultant for Beijing’s National Stadium, more affectionately known as the Bird’s Nest, ahead of the 2008 Olympics. He is also remembered for creating a piece of artwork consisting of thousands of flower seeds. When it was on display at the Tate Modern in London back in 2010, it was reportedly seen by up to four million visitors.
Outside of the art world, Ai Weiwei has courted controversy in his homeland because he has been very critical of the human rights situation and the Chinese government’s stance on it. He was even held for a few months in 2011, even though no charges had been filed against him. At the time, the Chinese said it was cracking down on dissidents. Ai Weiwei has also been highly-critical of the country’s rule of law.
The exhibition, entitled Ai Weiwei: According to What? is scheduled run until the middle of next month. The PAMM website highlights the vase as one of few that are part of a floor installation A more pressing issue for the Perez Art Museum Miami is how an Ai Weiwei vase was smashed and how it will impact the venue and exhibition going forward.
By Robert Shepherd