Painter Smashes Ai Weiwei’s Vase, Learns the Meaning of Conceptual Art

February 19, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Cubist painter Maximo Caminero was charged with criminal mischief after destroying an artwork by contemporary Chinese artist and dissident activist Ai Weiwei at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Sunday. According to his arrest report, the 51-year-old artist picked up one of the Colored Vases on display at Ai Weiwei’s “According to What?” exhibit and after a security guard told him to put it down, he smashed it into the floor.

“It was a spontaneous protest,” Caminero said. “I 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.” Caminero says he was protesting the lack of local artists being displayed in this museum. He says that he was suddenly inspired by the black-and-white photographs of Ai Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn to drop one of the Han Dynasty urns assembled in front of the photographs. So suddenly, he didn’t realize they were Han Dynasty Urns. “I thought it was a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly,” Caminero told the Miami New Times, he was shocked to learn it was worth one million dollars. “I didn’t know it was that amount. I feel so sorry about it, for sure.”

Like in the aftermath of ANIMAL’s favorite museum vandals and self-proclaimed philosophers The Yellowists, out poured the hysterical headlines emphasizing the audacity of damaging expensive property, as if that is the only characteristic of this artwork. And this preciously insipid one: “In Awful Act of Protest, Florida Artist Smashes Ancient Ai Weiwei Vase Worth $1 Million.”

The 2,000 year old urn is one of 16 on display. It was first vandalized by Ai, dipped in bright industrial paint, to, as the museum explains, “trigger questions about authenticity and the value and meaning of original artwork.” Like in the photographs of Ai smashing the artifact and Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, Ai’s intent could be interpreted as the destruction of the notion that all Chinese art is ancient art, of the weight of that old culture and sublimation of its systems into new ones. Maybe even a little bit of commentary about the authoritative symbology of Dynasty rule being replaced with brand-worship, patronage swapped with mass production? Something something. It’s a famous piece with a basic idea.

But, as Ai Weiwei told the Beijing press, that idea is most definitely not to provoke this dude to join him in smashing urns. “Damaging other people’s property or disturbing a public program doesn’t really support his cause… You cannot stand in front of a classical painting and kill somebody and say that you are inspired by” the artist, Ai said, adding that “this doesn’t make any sense.”

Caminero could be charged with a third-degree felony and punished with up to five years in prison. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t distinguish between common houseware and ancient artifacts in famous appropriation artworks. He also couldn’t tell pictures of things from concepts.

Some things are not literal. Until the next art attack... No beheadings next to Judith Beheading Holoferneplease!

(Photo: Arts Observer)