"It was a lot worse when I first moved here," Caminero says, unlocking the gate and showing a reporter into a small room with high ceilings, plywood floors, and canvases strung up like clothes on a laundry line. Vines creep from the windowsill up the moldering white wall and around a portrait of José Martí. It's a far cry from the sumptuous wood and polished concrete of PAMM. "Someone broke into my car once," Caminero says. "And my studio twice."

"People act like I'm a terrorist because I dared to disturb their peace."

In the 15 years since, the neighborhood has softened a little. Motels and a strip club still dominate the block, but hipster restaurants and a puppy grooming salon have popped up. Nowadays, Caminero's biggest fear isn't robbery, but revenge.

"I worry some crazy person might come and slash all my paintings because of what I did," he says. "Not that I could blame them."

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."

Caminero himself has had to fight off the "crazy" label in the days since his arrest. His studio does him no favors. The walls are scrawled with dozens of phrases. Some were penned by the visiting artists Caminero lets stay for free. Others are lyrics from his favorite folk songs. "In my house, nothing is prohibited," reads one. "There is no salvation unless it's for everyone," says another.

When a Miami Herald reporter peeked through the windows the day after Caminero's arrest, however, she chose a much more menacing quote to lead the article about him: "The crazies are going to take control."

Caminero considered it an underhanded attempt to suggest he was out of his mind. His Facebook page was flooded with similar accusations, as well as threats to destroy his artwork as he had done to Ai Weiwei's.

But Caminero mostly shrugs off the criticism. It is something he got used to years ago, when he realized that to show his work was to expose his soul to the slings and arrows of anyone who saw it. The stress of the first few days, when newspapers from around the world were calling him every five minutes and demanding answers, has subsided.

Since then, Caminero has made several public apologies to both Ai Weiwei and PAMM — assumedly on the advice of his lawyer. Whether he really needed to is up for debate. Ai himself has acknowledged that his pieces are damaged all the time during transport. "A work is a work. It's a physical thing. What can you do?" he told the New York Times. "It's already over."

PAMM officials, meanwhile, have admitted the urn was insured. Neither it nor Ai will lose any money over the protest. On the contrary, the incident drummed up far more media attention for both the fledgling museum and the Chinese artist than the show itself.

In fact, some of Caminero's supporters criticized him only for apologizing. Caminero admits his mea culpa was more complicated than it seemed.

"My apology was to Mr. Weiwei because I think he's sore and I had no right to destroy his work," he says. "But the installation was adequate to do the performance. It wasn't a bicycle or a painting. It was a pot, like the one Weiwei broke. It was the right moment, and I made a point. I don't need to say an apology for the performance."

Perhaps the most painful irony is that breaking the urn wasn't Caminero's first conceptual art performance. It was also probably the most interesting statement he's ever made as an artist. Whatever you think of his abstract paintings or canvases covered in hieroglyphics, none of them has ever sparked as much debate as dropping a 2,000-year-old pot. Of course, that same act has made him persona non grata among Miami's art galleries and museums.

"He's pretty much a pariah now," says one art industry insider who asked not to be named. "He's radioactive. This guy is like kryptonite."

If Caminero had the marketing savvy to say, "Never sorry" — the name of an Oscar-nominated documentary about Ai Weiwei — maybe things would be different. But as it is, he's just a 51-year-old painter whose work is neither easily marketable nor politically fashionable. A 51-year-old painter facing up to five years in prison, no less.

Next month, more than 40 artists will sell their work for Caminero's legal defense fund. Yet prison remains a real possibility. Caminero's family is terrified at the thought.

"I pray every day that he doesn't end up there," Rosanna says. "I'll die of pain if he goes inside. He doesn't belong there. He's never killed a thing, not even a cockroach."

Caminero is calmer. "I'm like Christ, crucified," he says. "It's too late for me, but the museum is going to have to change and start showing other artists now." Among the changes he wants to see at PAMM: a permanent exhibition room for local artists, a board made up of artists and art experts, and yearly contests. (PAMM declined to comment about those suggestions.)

Caminero has pleaded not guilty, but he does regret what he did. Breaking the urn has brought "disharmony" into his life, he says. Worst of all, he hasn't been able to paint.

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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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