A South Florida artist is facing a criminal charge after police say he smashed a $1 million vase at Miami’s new art museum to protest what he called its favoritism for international rather than local art.
Maximo Caminero, 51, was charged with criminal mischief after the Feb. 16 incident at the Perez Art Museum Miami. According to a Miami Police Department arrest affidavit, a security guard told officers that Caminero picked up a colored vase by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. When told to put it down, the security guard said, Caminero smashed it on the floor.
Caminero told officers he broke the vase to protest the museum’s lack of local artist displays and because “the museum only displayed international artists’ art,” according to the affidavit.
Later, in a public apology issued through the Miami Herald, Caminero said, “I have not the right to break his piece. I feel sorry for that. I’d like to apologize for all the inconvenience I caused Mr. Weiwei. I have no right to break the piece of someone else."
The police affidavit lists the value of the vase as $1 million, quoting the museum’s security officials. Criminal mischief can be a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison when the property damaged is worth more than $1,000.
“As an art museum dedicated to celebrating modern and contemporary artists from within our community and around the world, we have the highest respect for freedom of expression,” the museum said in a statement released late on Feb. 17. “But this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work, to Perez Art Museum Miami, and to our community.”
Caminero had a recent showing at the JF Gallery in West Palm Beach that offered patrons a chance to meet him and “view a sampling of the work from his 30-year career as an artist.”
According to the Perez Art Museum Miami’s website, the vase is one of more than a dozen that are part of a floor installation. Each vase is partially painted in bright colors.
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, smashing into pieces.
The “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” exhibit runs through March 16 at the museum. Museum officials confirmed the incident in a Monday email, and noted that an upcoming show will feature a local artist, Miami’s Edouard Duval-Carrié. The Haitian-born artist’s show, beginning March 13, is titled “Imagined Landscapes.”
A sculptor, designer and documentary maker, Ai has irked Beijing by using his art and online profile to draw attention to injustices in China and the need for greater transparency and rule of law. He was detained for 81 days in 2011 during crackdown on dissent.
After his release in June 2011, Ai’s design firm was slapped with a $2.4 million tax bill, which he fought unsuccessfully in the Chinese courts.