American artist breaks $1m Ai Weiwei vase

Part of the Ai Weiwei installation which Maximo Caminero is alleged to have damaged. Picture: Reuters
Part of the Ai Weiwei installation which Maximo Caminero is alleged to have damaged. Picture: Reuters
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AN AMERICAN painter faces being charged after police said he smashed a $1 million (£600,000) vase, created by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, at a Miami gallery.

Maximo Caminero, 51, claims he attacked the work to highlight gallery favouritism ­towards foreign rather than local artists because “the museum only displayed international artists’ art” .

He was charged with criminal mischief after Sunday’s incident at Pérez Art Museum, in Miami.

Ai has been detained under house arrest in China over charges of tax evasion, seen as an attempt to silence him.

His art has been put on display around the world, including a massive installation involving millions of handpainted ceramic sunflower seeds in London’s Tate Modern in 2010-11.

According to a Miami Police Department arrest warrant, a security guard told officers that Caminero picked up a coloured vase by the Chinese dissident artist Ai.

When told to put it down, the guard said Caminero smashed it on the floor.

Caminero, an artist who lives in Miami, declined to comment.He said he would speak at a planned press conference.

He added: “I’m going to ­answer all the questions.”

Criminal mischief can be a third-degree crime punishable by up to five years in prison when the property damaged is worth more than $1,000.

A Pérez Art Museum spokesman said: “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.”

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 Pérez 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 colours.

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?” exhibition runs until 16 March at the museum.

Museum officials pointed out an upcoming show will feature a local artist, Miami’s Edouard Duval-Carrié, entitled “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 has called for a Jasmine revolution but was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a 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.