Caminero was born September 7, 1962, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. President Rafael Trujillo had just been assassinated the year before. Caminero's father had spent time in jail for criticizing the strongman and had been forced to flee to Buenos Aires for three years. He returned only after Trujillo's death.

Investors dropped more than a half-billion dollars at Art Basel. But just a fraction of that went to local artists.

But the dictator's shadow still loomed over the small Caribbean country. Trujillo's chosen successor, Joaquín Balaguer, soon took over. Caminero grew up in a peaceful middle-class neighborhood called Los Prados on the edge of the city. But political opposition leaders kept disappearing, and police detained passersby for no reason. Máximo learned not to talk about his father's exile.

If Dominican politics were claustrophobic, Los Prados was not. Caminero escaped for hours into the plains. Summer rains formed dirty lakes, which Caminero and other boys used as swimming pools. "It was wide open," he says. "It was where I first tasted freedom."

Máximo Caminero inside his studio at 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
Michael E. Miller
Máximo Caminero inside his studio at 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
Ai Weiwei's Breaking a Han Dynasty Urn, which Caminero says he took as "a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."
Michael E. Miller
Ai Weiwei's Breaking a Han Dynasty Urn, which Caminero says he took as "a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."

It was also where Caminero had his first brush with death. He was 6 years old and had gone swimming with friends. But the other boys ran off, and Máximo could feel his feet slip in the mud. The water rose to his chin, then his mouth. Suddenly, a pair of dark hands grabbed him from behind and pulled him out of the pool.

"It was a poor kid, a black kid," Caminero remembers. "He saved my life. He showed me another humanity."

There would be many other near-death experiences for Caminero. Eleven, by his count. The second came during a drunken teen outing, when Caminero fell from the back of a pickup truck as it careened around a corner. He landed on his head and heard something snap, but stood up and walked away. The third was a motorcycle accident in which Caminero narrowly avoided breaking his neck.

With each incident, the quiet kid became more pensive, even spiritual. He was always drawing, scratching out quick caricatures of his friends to coax a laugh. But Caminero also began to paint strange cubist scenes that shocked his private-school teachers.

Art didn't pay the rent, though, and there were few other jobs in Santo Domingo, so Caminero tried out for the army. He easily passed the physical and written exams but skipped a final interview with a group of generals. He was 20 years old and wanted to paint, not plot coups.

Soon after sabotaging his military career, Caminero met a fiery woman named Rosanna. At first, the 18-year-old didn't think much of the shy artist with the startling hazel eyes. But Caminero pursued her with a steady intensity.

"He was my first love, my first man," Rosanna remembers. "When you fall in love when you are teenagers, you think you have the world in your hands."

They married against their parents' wishes, and when Máximo received American residency, the couple moved to New York City. The artist found a job in a metal factory making windows and doors. But New York seemed cold compared to Santo Domingo, and Máximo and Rosanna soon moved to the only other place where they knew Dominicans in the United States: Miami. Rosanna was pregnant with their first child, and the parents-to-be rented a room with a bare mattress from an old Cuban lady in North Miami Beach.

Caminero worked nights at Flanigan's, listening to folk music and writing a novel while selling bottles of booze. When he arrived home, Rosanna and baby Maxiell would be asleep, so Caminero would stay up until dawn painting on the tiny apartment's balcony.

His canvases gradually grew bigger and bolder. Some were chaotic swirls of expressionistic color. Others were cluttered with symbols and figures — the language in which Caminero explored issues of race, conquest, and colonialism in the Caribbean.

It was 1988, and South Beach looked like a bombed-out city. More shops were shuttered than open along Lincoln Road. And the few art galleries that existed weren't interested in Caminero's creations. A gallery in Puerto Rico began selling his paintings, however, and the occasional checks helped cover a move to Allapattah.

It was there that Caminero had his last brush with death. He was running when he suddenly fainted. As a friend dialed 911, Caminero could sense himself drifting toward a warm, uterine light. But then he thought of Maxiell and his other daughter, baby Leana. Caminero turned away from the glow and came back to life.

The episode scared him. He began spending more time with his daughters. The three of them would meditate together, lying on the floor and listening to Middle Eastern music. "It was my sister on his right arm, me on his left arm. We'd all stare up at the ceiling and just kind of live in that moment, side by side," Leana says. "Those little things just made my father's day."

Caminero also redoubled his devotion to art. He rented a small crumbling studio at NE 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, where he would spend hours before and after work. It paid off. He sold only five or six paintings a year for about $2,000 each, but for the first time he felt like a professional artist.

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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 communitymanager

@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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