US & Canada

Ai Weiwei vase worth $1m broken in local artist protest

A Florida artist is facing criminal charges after deliberately dropping a vase by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in an apparent protest.

Maximo Caminero, 51, was charged with criminal mischief after breaking the $1m (£600,000) vase on Sunday in Miami.

Police say Mr Caminero told them he broke the art work in protest at the Perez Art Museum Miami's failure to exhibit work by local artists.

Mr Ai said he did not support artists destroying other artists' work.

Mr Ai - who was detained in 2011 by China during a crackdown on dissent, and whose relationship with the Chinese authorities remains deeply antagonistic - pointed out that his own work is never shown in China.

The Florida museum is holding an exhibition of the work of the Chinese artist until mid-March. It includes an artwork, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, depicting Mr Ai smashing an ancient Chinese vase.

A security guard told police officers that Mr Caminero picked up a coloured vase that was part of a floor installation, and when told to put it down, smashed it on the floor, according to a police affidavit.

The Florida artist said he would hold a news conference on Tuesday to explain the act. He told the Miami New Times that he did indeed destroy the vase in protest.

"I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here," he told the newspaper. "They have spent so many millions now on international artists."

Mr Caminero said he acted spontaneously, inspired by Mr Ai's own art.

'Performance protest'

The vase he picked up is one of more than a dozen painted in bright colours. They are described by Ai Weiwei as originally made during China's Han dynasty.

Behind the installation are a series of three black-and-white photos showing Mr Ai holding a vase and then letting it drop to the ground, where it smashes into pieces.

"I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest," Mr Caminero told the New Times.

But Mr Ai told the BBC from Beijing that his own destruction of vases was "a little different".

"The work I work on [does] not belong to a museum or other people's property. I never tried to destroy a museum piece - those vases belong to me. He can drop whatever he likes to drop, but not other people's property."

Mr Ai said he could not comment on the choices made by the museum's curator, and such choices did not justify the destruction of somebody else's work.

And he pointed out: "I still don't have a chance to show my work in China or Beijing. I never even think of going to a museum in Beijing to protest - if I [did], I would be punished."

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