US artist smashes $1M Ai Weiwei vase in museum

Associated Press
In this undated photo made available by the Brooklyn Museum of Art, shows a series of 16 vases that are part of an installation by Chinese artist Wei Wei and currently on display at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. Artist Maximo Caminero broke one of the vases on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. Caminero told officers he broke the vase to protest the museum's lack of local artist displays and because "the museum only displayed international artists' art," according to the affidavit. The Wei Wei exhibit was to be displayed next at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. (AP Photo/Brooklyn Museum of Art)
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MIAMI (AP) — A U.S. artist faces a criminal charge after police say he smashed a $1 million vase by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei at Miami's new art museum to protest what he called its favoritism for international rather than local art.

Maximo Caminero, 51, was charged with criminal mischief over $1,000, which is a felony, after Sunday's incident at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. According to a Miami Police Department arrest affidavit, a security guard told officers that Caminero picked up a colored vase by the artist. When told to put it down, the security guard said, Caminero smashed it on the floor.

Caminero told officers he broke the vase to protest the museum's lack of local artist displays, according to the affidavit.

Caminero, a painter who lives in Miami, told The Miami Herald on Tuesday that he had no right to destroy someone else's art. He canceled a planned Tuesday 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.

The police affidavit lists the value of the vase as $1 million, quoting the museum's security officials.

"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," the museum said in a statement late Monday. "But this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work, to Pérez Art Museum Miami, and to our community."

According to the museum'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 colors.

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.

A sculptor, designer and documentary maker, Ai has irritated 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 was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a crackdown on dissent.

The "Ai Weiwei: According to What?" exhibit runs through March 16 at the museum. In an email Monday, museum officials noted that an upcoming show will feature a local artist, Haitian-born Edouard Duval-Carrié.

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