By Ciara LaVelle
By George Martinez
By Kat Bein
By Ciara LaVelle
By Travis Cohen
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Monica McGivern
By Travis Cohen
They have a point. Of the 258 galleries at last year's Art Basel, only two — Spinello Projects and Fredric Snitzer Gallery — were local. And for every success story like Agustina Woodgate — featured at last year's Basel — there are hundreds of local artists who must fight for spots at satellite fairs or be left out.
In 2012, a half-dozen top local artists defected together to Los Angeles, including Jen Stark and the acclaimed collective known as FriendsWithYou. "We love Miami, but collectors here just don't support our work," Samuel Borkson, part of FriendsWithYou, said at the time. "The move is about being in a place where we can be part of a movement, where more money is invested in culture, and we will be more nurtured by people to continue making art that impacts others' lives."
Last year, celebrities, art speculators, and serious investors dropped more than a half-billion dollars at Art Basel. But just a fraction of that went to local artists. Between the two of them, Spinello and Snitzer had space for only a dozen local artists.
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That's why some of them claim it was about time someone spoke up — or lashed out. "I support what Máximo did," says Emilio Martínez, a Guatemalan-American artist. "The galleries are as dirty as they can be. They take advantage of artists."
But even those who feel Caminero's message criticize his medium for expressing it. "The fact that he picked up a million-dollar vase and dropped it on the ground, that takes balls," admits Bert Rodriguez, another Miami-bred A-list artist who left for L.A. last year. "But it's kind of like suicide: It's a brave act and a cowardly act at the same time... I've been where he's at. I'm still there. Every artist is frustrated. But what he did was more ego-driven than altruistic."
Besides, local gallery owners dispute the idea that the deck is stacked against locals like Caminero. "This guy is off his rocker completely," Fred Snitzer says. "The whole idea of local disenfranchised artists with gripes, it's sort of like saying that if your kid can't get into Harvard, it must be Harvard's fault. Most of the time if your kid can't get into Harvard, your kid isn't good enough."
The issue is simpler, he says. "Good artists get shown and good artists sell, and bad artists don't. There is no indication this guy is a good artist. I hope he doesn't come and blow me up for saying that."
Much of the dissent in the art world centers on PAMM, a public art museum built with $130 million from taxpayers but named after a private real estate developer. Critics worried that the collection of this architectural marvel wouldn't live up to its new environs. So it was no surprise that the museum's curators brought in the big guns — perhaps the world's most popular artist, Ai Weiwei — to christen its opening during Art Basel in December.
But Snitzer, Rodriguez, and others say PAMM does plenty to support Miamians. A spokeswoman for PAMM declined to comment for this article but listed several Miami artists currently on display in the museum, including a solo show for Edouard Duval-Carrié. In fact, Duval-Carrié once shared a studio with Caminero. Even he says his fellow artist's act of protest did more harm than good.
"My biggest fear is that his act will jeopardize the relationship between the public and the art," he told New Times ahead of his show. "I hope PAMM won't be forced to place a security guard in front of every piece on display because of one individual's misguided actions."
By far the most common complaint other artists have about Caminero is that his protest was misdirected.
"Smashing or defacing someone's work is a line in the sand for me," says Dan Milewski. "There's lots of work that I don't like, approve of, or agree with, and I'm certainly concerned about the state of the art world and the market forces that surround it, but I personally would never destroy another artist's work."
Yet the turnout in Wynwood at Danilo Gonzalez's studio in the days after the protest makes it clear that Caminero's actions — right or wrong — have struck a chord. Martínez, for one, claims Caminero's critics "are still hoping for a show at the Pérez Art Museum" and "don't have the balls to do what Máximo did."
Local art scholar Babacar M'Bow says all of these arguments miss the bigger point. Caminero's protest poses deeper challenges for the museum and for Miami, he says. Instead of pressing charges, PAMM should hold panel discussions on the urn-breaking incident.
"We want art in Miami, but we don't want the controversy surrounding it," M'Bow says. "We have to look at this event in the context of Miami rising as a new international center. This incident is the price the city is paying."
"Buenas noches," Máximo Caminero greets a visitor from behind thick metal bars. But he's not in prison — at least, not yet. Instead, he's standing inside his studio, smack dab in the middle of Miami's MiMo red-light district. It's just after nightfall, and busty women in high heels are already standing on Biscayne Boulevard, scouting for johns.