Fred Snitzer Says Urn Smashing Was "Crap," Calls Máximo Caminero "A Disgruntled Wacko"
Michael E. Miller
Máximo Caminero's self-described "performance art piece" has pissed off a lot of people. His decision to smash a 2,000-year-old urn -- painted by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei and put on display at the Pérez Art Museum Miami -- enraged everyone from local artists to Ai himself.
But Caminero's most strident critic is probably Fred Snitzer. The veteran gallery owner vented to New Times over what he called Caminero's "tantrum."
"This guy is off his rocker completely," Snitzer said. "It's stupid. If he was protesting PAMM, he could blow up PAMM. But what the hell did this artist do to him?"
Snitzer -- a mainstay of the Miami art world for more than 30 years, including a decade in Wynwood -- started the interview by saying he wasn't sure why we were writing about Caminero.
"What is that conversation? Whether or not it is legitimate to destroy another artist's work?" he asked. "He's a disgruntled wacko."
"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 said.
"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."
Snitzer said Caminero's complaints -- that art fairs are too exclusive, galleries too expensive, and museums too politicized for local artists -- doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
"Come on. There is so much attention in this town and so much activity and so much exposure," he said. "Of all the things that one could protest in the world, this is not one of them."
Máximo Caminero in his studio
Michael E. Miller
Like many in the local art community, Snitzer defended PAMM.
"Miami artists get shows at PAMM all the time. So what are [museum officials] supposed to do?"
He also went a step further, saying it wasn't the job of local museums, galleries, or art fairs to show Miami artists.
"I'm a gallery. It's my money. I can show anything I want," he said. "I don't have any community responsibility, any cultural responsibility. I can do what I want. Nobody has the right to tell me what to show.
"The ultimate charge for any serious gallery or, for that matter, any serious museum, is to show great work. I've shown tons of Miami artists, but I don't show them because they are Miami artists. I show them because they are good.
"From a museum's standpoint it gets tricky," he added. "We run a risk when part of the charge of a museum is to pander to local artists in some way. If the museum recognizes talent locally, they should show it. But if there isn't any local talent, what are they supposed to do?
"PAMM and MAM did tons of exhibitions of Miami artists," Snitzer said. "Why can one guy have a tantrum and create all this bullshit?"
Snitzer also dismissed criticism of international art fairs like Art Basel by Caminero and other locals.
"What made them think it was for them in the first place?" he asked. "This is a commercial art fair. If anything, a smart artist would say, 'Hmmm ... I get to see a whole bunch of international work that I would never get to look at otherwise. What are the trends? What is current?
"Art Basel has done incredible things for this community, and a lot of them are educational. If he wants to blame Art Basel, he can, but that's ridiculous."
Snitzer said he had faith in Miami's art market.
"The way to get attention for yourself is to make great work. Period," he said. "If you can't make great work, well then, I guess you've got to scream or break somebody else's work."
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