Cruel irony: Chinese dissident artist upset vase destroyed
BEIJING — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who helped make his name smashing a valuable vase in the name of art, said Wednesday that he was miffed about another artist destroying one of his vases in Florida.
Maximo Caminero was charged with criminal mischief after destroying a vase valued at $1 million that was part of Ai’s exhibit at the Perez Art Museum Miami. The Florida artist said he smashed the vase Sunday to protest the institution’s lack of displays of local artists.
Ai said Wednesday that he did not agree with Caminero’s tactic.
“Damaging other people’s property or disturbing a public program doesn’t really support his cause,” Ai said in an interview in Beijing.
The urn, dating back about 2,000 years to China’s Han Dynasty, was one of 16 on display that Ai had dipped in bright industrial paint, making them look like much more recently produced pots. The installation aims to “trigger questions about authenticity and the value and meaning of original artwork,” according to the museum’s website.
On a wall behind the vases are a series of large photographs of Ai dropping a Han Dynasty ceramic urn that smashed on the floor at his feet, one of his best-known works.
Against this backdrop, Caminero picked up one of the vases from the floor and, when told to put it down, smashed it on the floor, according to a police affidavit citing a security guard. Caminero told officers he broke the vase to protest the museum’s lack of local works, according to the affidavit.
The Miami New Times quoted Caminero as saying it was a spontaneous protest after seeing the photos of Ai breaking the ancient Chinese vase. “I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest,” he said.
Ai said the artist’s apparent inspiration was “misleading.”
“You cannot stand in front of a classical painting and kill somebody and say that you are inspired by” the artist, Ai said, adding that “this doesn’t make any sense.”
Caminero apologized Tuesday to The Miami Herald, saying he had no right to destroy someone else’s art. He cancelled a planned news conference and did not respond to telephone messages left by The Associated Press. A note on his studio door said his lawyer advised against commenting.
Ai said he thought the value of $1 million mentioned on the Florida police affidavit was “exaggerated.” He said that he wasn’t involved with the insurance details, but that he thought the figure was “a very ridiculous number.”