On Sunday, a visitor to the Perez Art Museum in Miami smashed one of Ai Weiwei’s painted vases in an apparent act of protest against the city’s lack of support for local artists. Maximo Caminero, a Florida artist, told the Miami New Times:
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.
Art mirrors life, and life mirrors art. In the very same room as the ill-fated vase was Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn – a work by Ai Weiwei himself in which he destroys the Chinese artefact. Ai Weiwei cannot show locally in his home country, China, because of his own protests against the ruling regime’s human rights record.
Of course, it’s one thing for Ai Weiwei to destroy something he owns, and another for Caminero to destroy an installed work of art by an artist other than himself. Ai Weiwei has said to the BBC:
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.
Nevertheless, Caminero claimed that he was inspired by Ai Weiwei, seeing it as ‘a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest’.
Caminero has been charged with criminal mischief, which, in the state of Florida, can carry a sentence of up to five years when the property damaged is priced over $1,000. Caminero said he would hold a press conference today to answer all questions. It’s not the first time somebody has used an act of vandalism to gain a public platform. Will anyone ask whether he should be given the opportunity to answer any questions at all?
Update: According to a report by the BBC, Caminero subsequently cancelled the press conference
Broken Logic: vandalism, Ai Weiwei and Caminero (Katy Barrett)