An artist from Florida is facing criminal charges after deliberately dropping a vase by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in an apparent protest. Maximo Caminero, 51, was charged with criminal mischief after breaking the $1m vase on Sunday in Miami.
Police say Caminero told them he broke the artwork in protest at the Perez Art Museum Miami's failure to exhibit work by local artists. Ai, meanwhile said he did not support artists destroying other artists' work. The artist -- who was detained in 2011 by China during a crackdown on dissent, and whose relationship with the Chinese authorities remains deeply antagonistic -- pointed out that his own work is never shown in China.
The Florida museum is holding an exhibition of the work of the Chinese artist until mid-March. It includes an artwork, “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn”, depicting Ai smashing an ancient Chinese vase.
A security guard told police officers that Caminero picked up a coloured vase that was part of a floor installation, and when told to put it down, smashed it on the floor, according to a police affidavit. The Florida artist said he would hold a news conference to explain the act. He told the Miami New Times that he did indeed destroy the vase in protest. “I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here,” he told the newspaper. He also said he acted spontaneously, inspired by Ai's own art.
Behind the installation are a series of three black-and-white photos showing Ai holding a vase and then letting it drop to the ground, where it smashes into pieces. “I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest,” Caminero told the New Times.
But Ai told the BBC from Beijing that his own destruction of vases was “a little different.”
“The work I work on [does] not belong to a museum or other people's property. I never tried to destroy a museum piece -- those vases belong to me. He can drop whatever he likes to drop, but not other people's property.”
Ai said he could not comment on the choices made by the museum's curator, and such choices did not justify the destruction of somebody else's work.