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Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Making a statement
Artist apologizes for smashing vase at Ai Weiwei exhibit in Florida

After the art world reacted in shock to a South Florida-based artist's act of protest at the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) in Miami, Maximo Caminero apologized to Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei for smashing one of his vases. The value of the vase, one of 16 on display at the "Ai Weiwei: According to What?" exhibit, was still being determined, though police placed a US$1 million (approximately NT$30 million) value on it in order to process the criminal charge. "I do not have the right to break his piece," Caminero, 51, said. "I'd like to apologize for all the inconvenience I caused Mr. Weiwei."

On Feb. 16, Caminero visited the museum and its politically charged showcase into Chinese culture and history. The show includes a collection of vases, dipped by the artist in paint, that Ai has represented as from the Han Dynasty. According to the police report, Caminero picked up one of the vases and broke it on the floor. He told the arresting officer that he smashed the artwork in protest on behalf of local artists who he felt were slighted in favor of international artists at the new US$131 million (approximately NT$4 billion) complex.

Caminero, a Dominican Republic-born artist who has been exhibited at numerous galleries around the world, maintains he 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 following a 2011 arrest for his political activism. Ai condemned the Chinese government for actions he saw as corrupt following a 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.

Dennis Scholl, a member of the museum's board of trustees, said his impression was that local artists were "appalled" by the incident. Since the incident, PAMM has reiterated the involvement of local artists. At the time of the incident, the museum was showing "AMERICANA," an exhibit featuring four local artists. And this month, the museum will open "Imagined Landscapes," a new show by Miami-based Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrie. "It's just ludicrous to suggest that we don't respect or show Miami artists," said Leann Standish, PAMM's deputy director for external affairs.

But Danilo Gonzalez, an artist and owner of the Art Place, a gallery and cafe in Miami, defended Caminero. "His intention wasn't an act of vandalism," said Gonzalez. "I've known him for years. He's really concerned about what is happening in Miami with the artists, and no one is paying attention to them. We are being replaced by commercial development and nobody is doing anything about it."

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