MIAMI — A day after the art world reacted in shock to a South Florida artist's act of protest at the Perez Art Museum Miami, Maximo Caminero is apologizing to Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei for smashing one of his vases. The green vase, one of 16 on display at the "Ai Weiwei: According to What?" exhibit, has been valued by the museum at $1 million.
"I have not the right to break his piece. I feel sorry for that," Caminero, 51, told the Miami Herald Tuesday morning. "I'd like to apologize for all the inconvenience I caused Mr. Weiwei. I have no right to break the piece of someone else."
On Sunday, Caminero attended the exhibit, a politically charged showcase into Chinese culture and history. One component of the exhibit features a series of three black-and-white photos of the artist, in protest mode, as he holds a Chinese vase and lets it smash to the ground.
According to the police report, Caminero picked up one of vases and refused a security staffer's order to put the piece down. Instead Caminero broke the vase on the floor. He told the arresting officer that he smashed the artwork in protest on behalf of local artists that he felt were slighted in favor of international artists at the new $131 million complex on Biscayne Bay.
Caminero, a Dominican Republic-born artist who has been exhibited at numerous galleries locally and abroad, maintains he was unaware of the value of the piece and was acting in support of artists like Ai who are stifled.
The Beijing-born Ai Weiwei, 56, a sculptor, designer and documentarian, is not permitted to leave China after a 2011 arrest for his political activism. Ai condemned the Chinese government for actions he saw as corrupt following a 2008 earthquake in Szechuan.
"I was never against the art they were showing at the PAMM," said Caminero, who has been charged with criminal mischief and is out of jail on bail. "I never said that. I have no problem with international artists showing here. I cannot talk about my situation," he said, referring to the legal status of his case. "But I'd like to bring the message I feel sorry for the inconvenience. So many artists are supporting me and eventually you'll see it."
Danilo Gonzalez, an artist and owner of the Art Place, a gallery and cafe in Wynwood, defends Caminero. "His intention wasn't an act of vandalism," Gonzalez said. "We at the Warehouse Project condemn any act of vandalism. We believe what Mr. Caminero is doing is a very clear statement about what is happening to our communities and the artists."
Ai, however, expressed another viewpoint in an interview with CNN. Yes, he has been photographed dropping vases as a form of protest. One famed photographic exhibit in 1995, "Dropping the Urn," depicts Ai dropping a centuries-old Han-Dynasty urn. But no, Caminero's action isn't the equivalent in the international artist's view.
"My work belongs to me, it doesn't belong to the public and also it doesn't belong to somebody else," Ai told CNN.
As to his status in exile and Gonzalez's point that Caminero was sympathetic to his plight, Ai differs. "I can't have a show in Beijing, but I cannot go to museums to break work in Beijing. My work is basically forbidden to be shown in China. The protest itself may be valid but to damage somebody's work to do that is questionable. I don't really care much and actually my work is often damaged in different shows, because it's fragile so normally I don't take these things too highly. Damage is damage, you know. If they have insurance, maybe it will be covered."
Leann Standish, PAMM's deputy director for external affairs, said the piece was insured. The museum, currently working with authorities, released another statement on Tuesday. "Although the museum can't speak directly to intentions, evidence suggests that this was a premeditated act. 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 Perez Art Museum Miami, and to our community."