But the real story behind Máximo Caminero and the million-dollar urn isn't so simple. Beneath the moment of madness lies a lifetime of artistic struggle. And what seemed like senseless destruction was also the final brushstroke in a self-portrait of pain, divorce, and near-death experiences.

"I never expected that this was going to escalate all over the world."

His protest also illustrated the real plight of local artists, who claim that the billions spent here during Art Basel and other fairs don't trickle down to those who need it most. Although most Miami artists disagree with what Caminero did, there is no doubt he has broken open a serious debate over where local artists fit into this city's growing international reputation.

"People here live like robots," Caminero says. "You see the cars line up on the highway in the morning. They are like slaves. Every once in a while, something has to shatter for people to stop and realize what's really going on."

Caminero works on a painting in his studio, whose walls are lined with quotes such as "Passion is a ruin."
Michael E. Miller
Caminero works on a painting in his studio, whose walls are lined with quotes such as "Passion is a ruin."
Caminero holds up quotes by Ai Weiwei.
Michael E. Miller
Caminero holds up quotes by Ai Weiwei.

Location Info

Map

Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)

1103 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Downtown/Overtown

Caminero wasn't the first to cause outrage by attacking an artwork. Almost as long as humans have created art, others have abused the pieces to make a point, to push an agenda, or simply to fulfill their insane desires.

"Destruction is a creative act in many ways," says Daniel Jewesbury, an art professor at the University of Ulster. "But like art itself, we need to think of what the motives for it are, what it really achieves, and whether something has been lost that outweighs the point made."

Art vandalism, as the term suggests, began with the Vandals. The Germanic tribes swept across Europe in the Fifth Century, sacking Rome and smashing many of its statues.

The word "vandalism" was coined during the French Revolution, when religious paintings were destroyed during the Reign of Terror. Since then, some of the world's most famous artworks have been slashed, shot, or sprayed with acid. Even Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa has been a target.

Most of the time, pure mental illness is to blame. In 1972, a Hungarian geologist named Laszlo Toth walked into St. Peter's Basilica and attacked Michelangelo's La Pieta with a hammer while screaming, "I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!" Robert Cambridge blasted da Vinci's The Virgin and Child With St Anne and St John the Baptist from close range with a shotgun in London's National Gallery in 1987, causing considerable damage.

The insane scourge of the art world, however, was Hans-Joachim Bohlmann. For 30 years, the German traveled around Europe spraying the faces of famous portraits with sulfuric acid. Bohlmann, who suffered from a personality disorder, damaged $200 million worth of paintings before his death in 2009.

Occasionally, art attackers are driven not by personal demons but by politics. In 1974, Tony Shafrazi spray-painted "Kill lies all" on Pablo Picasso's antiwar manifesto Guernica to protest Richard Nixon's pardon of the soldier responsible for the My Lai massacre. In 2004, Zvi Mazel — the Israeli ambassador to Sweden — tried to destroy a piece about Palestinian suicide bombers because he thought it was anti-Semitic.

But the most bizarre assaults are always those committed by other artists. In 1996, a Canadian art school student methodically set out to vomit primary colors on three famous paintings. Jubal Brown first ralphed in deep red all over a painting by French impressionist Raoul Dufy. ("[It] was just so boring it needed some color," Brown said.) Six months later, he barfed in blue on a Mondrian. It's unclear whether Brown ever completed his trilogy, titled Responding to Art.

Other art interventions have been more highbrow, or at least have avoided bodily fluids. In 1953, American artist Robert Rauschenberg painstakingly erased a drawing by the great abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and then hung it as his own. Many people considered it "a pure act of destruction, vandalism," Rauschenberg later admitted. But for him, it was "poetry."

Caminero's own protest was presaged by a similar event in 2012, when a Swiss art collector smashed a Han Dynasty urn that Ai Weiwei had covered with a Coca-Cola label. Critics praised that copycat performance.

Yet there was a crucial difference between these artists and Caminero. They all owned the pieces they destroyed. He did not.

It was only when police officers slapped handcuffs on his wrists and sat him inside a squad car that Caminero began to have second thoughts. Those thoughts darkened when cops began blindly asking museum officials how much the urn was worth — a guesstimate that could affect the charges against Caminero.

"Fifty thousand?" one officer asked. Caminero gulped. He thought the urn had been a replica from Home Depot, not a Han Dynasty original.

"More," said a museum official.

"A hundred thousand?" the cop tried again.

"No. More," the official answered. Caminero could feel his future being crushed under the absurd auction.

"Five hundred thousand," the official finally estimated. The cop rounded up to an even million, just to be safe.


Rosanna Caminero didn't know her ex-husband had been arrested until she turned on Good Morning America. But the man whose somber mug shot flashed across the screen wasn't the Caminero she knew. That Máximo Caminero had died eight years earlier, with the flick of a pen.

Caminero's act of protest was over in an instant. But in many ways, his life had been building toward that breaking point for eight years. Ever since his and Rosanna's divorce, Caminero had let himself become a different person: an artist willing to suffer scandal — even five years in prison — to make a point.

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31 comments
John Wilson
John Wilson

florida is all about making stupid people famous

Lon Allen
Lon Allen

Not sure what the big deal is. He followed in Ai Weiwei steps. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can't image the Han Dynasty artist would be all that impressed with Weiwei.

Naomi Preston
Naomi Preston

This is prob one of the most well written articles put out by the New times in a long time. The subject matter wasn't worth the cyber ink but still a well written article, finally.

Alex Maciel
Alex Maciel

Not saying he was asking for it, but I would feel more sympathetic for the artist if he wasn't actually smashing a vase in his display

WhyNotNow
WhyNotNow topcommenter

Ai weiwei's father was jailed for political dissidence also. I think he and Caminero's story have other similarities. However, Jorge Perez has done more damage to MAM than anybody.

Vince Witty
Vince Witty

Its clearly destruction of property regardless of whatever he meant. He said "bla bla we dont support local artists" it doesnt make it ok to destroy this artwork

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................i guess the appropriate "penalty" would be for someone to bust up art created by CAMINERO equal to the market value of the vase he broke

this would be a win-win because that probably would include ALL of that clowns "art", so its gone, ending the quest to be "seen",  and then CAMINERO could take a full-time J O B at Flanigans washing dishes,  as his fifteen-minutes of fame is now over

any other clowns would see that their crap will be trashed if they get any ideas about being copy-cat vandals for the attention

typical of hispanics is to act before thinking which is why to date most 'revolutions" don't work for them and this stunt won't work for CAMINERO either

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..............................................in the end all art is strange

6785679900
6785679900

Caminero is the typical frustrated and neurotic artist whose arrogance deluded him into thinking that the quality of his pieces where at the same level of those shown in a museum like PAMM. Furthermore, it is more than obvious that he has no idea what the rules of performative art are nor the context in which it can be claimed that ones work is so. Meaning that his claim that he was just engaging in his own performance art is absolute BS. It might have been less offensive to those with a brain if he had stated he was protesting PAMM being named after some cheesy developer who donated money in exchange for an ego appeaser. He might as well stated he didn't know what got over him, or even that he just thinks Ai Wei Wei's work is a piece of shit and he thus gave it the appropriate treatment. But that is not what he claimed. He stated that he was protesting that the museum had the temerity of showing the artwork of a Chinese citizen as opposed to a "Miamian." So with these statements he revealed himself to be xenophobic and pretty unintelligent, as he is DOMINICAN, born and raised, so his demands for local art to be displayed (which in this case clearly means HIS work) in the museum are moot. I feel bad for his daughters as the guy is not only mediocre, but pretentious and arrogant too. 


Terence R Waldron
Terence R Waldron

Dat shit ain't art. And who'd he sleep with to get the entire second floor of our museum? That stuff isn't permanent, I hope.

DaniloGonzalez
DaniloGonzalez

@MikeMillerMiami Bravo! This is a very interesting article that brings to light the many perspectives of this event that until now have been ignored. It is obvious that you took the time to make extensive research while not becoming partial to any sector. Thank you for bringing to this conversation diversity and rich historical values. It is impossible to please everyone and besides, that is not your job as a journalist. I would like to challenge the public to take this opportunity to learn instead of passing the blame.

Lourdes Diaz
Lourdes Diaz

Sarah Green - Weiwei doesnt need someone like Caminero to call "attention" to him. He is an internationally known artist who exhibits worldwide. The reason that he cant leave his town is that he is a human rights activist who is under house arrest. There is a whole documentary on it, as well as worldwide magazine covers, TV and radio broadcasts. Weiwei doesnt need this kind of foolish attention.

Sarah Green
Sarah Green

New times, I wonder if you've heard the rumors that the pot smashing was an intentional attention calling to Weiwei and his work. You call him one of the most famous artists in the world but I'd never heard of him until this incident. As a "political dissident" in China, apparently he can't even leave his town without special permission from the Chinese government. And he certainly cannot leave the country. Perhaps this newfound attention has lubricated his situation at home a bit...

Eddy Earthtone Blak
Eddy Earthtone Blak

Then I stand corrected, NewTimes: the all seeing eye of South FL. I just feel this guys frustrations.. Thanks for responding back, glad you guys could "fit it in".....

Alexander Fernandez
Alexander Fernandez

Caminero won; way too much attention being paid to him. Btw, New Times, the great local artist of international renown is Jose Bédia. Badía is a brand of comestible herbs and spices

Miami New Times
Miami New Times

Eddy, you obviously haven't read the article to understand the headline. It makes it very clear what we mean.

Eddy Earthtone Blak
Eddy Earthtone Blak

"Attack on the Miami Art World?" Hey, uh.. Newtimes, tell whoever is calling the shots down there to lay off the PCP pipe. As a hardworking artist and a friend of a lot of talented hardworking individuals in this city I'm here to say that I wouldn't accept this shit as a worthy representation of Miami's art scene even if you payed me to. This "artist" should be reigned upon with shame for having the pebbles to think pots dipped in paint is work a Million smackers. I could smear shit on a wall and it would be more tasteful then this "shit", no pun intended.....

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

"His protest also illustrated the real plight of local artists, who claim that the billions spent here during Art Basel and other fairs don't trickle down to those who need it most"

The solution is simple......DON'T SUCK!

Just because you call yourself an artist doesn't mean you are one or any good.  Deal with it.

Now toss this A-hole in jail and stop defending him.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.................since when do these foreigners claim MIAMI as their own except when they feel they aren't getting their share of the AMERICAN PIE

they don't even have the proper respect for our language - which is ENGLISH - yet want every advantage and benefit the US can offer

maybe someday they will all go home to their own country and we can once again claim MIAMI for AMERICA = period

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@MikeMillerMiami @Anthonyvop1Of course you are defending him.

Do you write feature articles about vandals who smash a window?

He is no better than some jealous, lazy, entitlement trash who vandalizes property in a jealous, ignorant, anger.  You are providing a platform which is tantamount to endorsing his actions which are indefensible.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@JoseDuran @Anthonyvop1We all know why he did it.

He is a self-absorbed, publicity seeking, spoiled brat.

And this article is exactly what he wanted.

JoseDuran
JoseDuran moderator communitymanagertopcommenter

@Anthonyvop1  Defending his actions and trying to find out why he did what he did is completely different. Please, stop trolling.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@MikeMillerMiami @Anthonyvop1 

To single him out for a feature article is to defend him and give his hatred a platform.

You are more than welcome to write about him but do not for a moment insult the reader's intelligence by claiming you are not defending his actions.

 
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