Dominican-born Maximo Caminero, 51, was arrested and charged
on Sunday with criminal mischief after picking up one of 16
brightly painted vases at the Perez Art Museum Miami and
throwing it to the ground when confronted by security, according
to a police report.
He told police he broke the vase to protest that the museum
"only displayed international artists," according to the police
Caminero, reached by telephone, told Reuters he is a painter and
lives in Miami. He said he planned to host a news conference on
Tuesday to explain his actions and declined to comment further.
He told the Miami New Times he had no idea the vase was so
valuable, and said he was a fan of Ai.
"I didn't know that it was that amount," he told the paper's
online edition, saying he thought it was "a common clay pot like
you would find at Home Depot, frankly."
The 16 vases, each dipped in bright paint by Ai, are about 2,000
years old, dating back to China's Han Dynasty. The artist has
long used ancient vases and artifacts in his work, drawing
criticism that painting them defaces the original work.
Behind the installation in Miami is a backdrop of three photos
showing him dropping a Han Dynasty urn.
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He also has painted the Coca-Cola logo onto several
Caminero said his action was a spontaneous protest, in part inspired
by the Chinese artist. "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," he told the New Times.
Ai has long attracted international attention for
criticizing China's government policies on democracy, free speech
and human rights.
He disappeared abruptly in mid-2011 and was held without charges for
nearly three months for alleged economic crimes.
The piece, titled "Colored Vases," is part of Ai's exhibit
"According to What," which opened along with the museum in late
The Herzog & de Meuron-designed waterfront museum opened in
December, marking an important shift in Miami's cultural landscape
as the city looks in part to shed its sun-and-fun image.
(Additional reporting by David Adams;
editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, G. Crosse and Mohammad Zargham)
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