Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — except perhaps when imitation takes the form of smashing a vase by Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei valued at $1 million.
Miami artist Maximo Caminero claims he did it “for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here,” according to the Miami New Times.
Police say Caminero walked into the Perez Art Museum Miami on Sunday and destroyed the vase.
Caminero, who is well-known locally, claims he smashed the vase, part of an installation of Ai’s work titled “Colored Vases,” as a “spontaneous protest.” He told the New Times:
“I was at PAMM and saw Ai Weiwei’s photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it. And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest.”
That appears to be a reference to Ai’s work “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” three photographs, seen below, that are also on display at the museum.
A statement on the vase-smashing from the Perez Art Museum Miami did not name Caminero, but stated that “evidence suggests that this was a premeditated act.” It added:
“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, but this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work, to Pérez Art Museum Miami, and to our community.”
A police report said that on Sunday afternoon, a security guard at the museum saw Caminero pick up the vase. When she told him to put it down, he “threw and broke the vase on the floor in protest.”
Caminero has been charged with criminal mischief, according to news reports.
Ai told the The New York Times that Caminero’s “argument doesn’t make much sense,” but added that he wasn’t too concerned about the destruction of the artwork.
“I’m OK with it, if a work is destroyed,” Ai told the Times. “A work is a work. It’s a physical thing. What can you do? It’s already over.”
The New Times reported that Caminero, 51, was born in the Dominican Republic and has “shown his frenetic, colorful, abstract, Caribbean-influenced paintings at art fairs.”
The newspaper writes that Camerino said he didn’t know the vase was valued at $1 million.
“I feel so sorry about it, for sure,” he was quoted as saying.
But, Camerino said, “if you saw the vases on display and the way they were painted, there was no way one would think the artist had painted over an ancient artifact. Instead I thought it was a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly.”