The Pérez Art Museum Miami has received much critical acclaim and attention for their current Ai Weiwei exhibition, According To What?, which PAMM's website describes as "the first international (exhibit) of this vital artist's multifaceted artistic oeuvre." The array of Ai's work, spanning 20 years of the artist's career, has been on display since the Museum opened on December 4th, and was slated to remain at PAMM until March 16th.
But Sunday, February 16, a man -- whose name has yet to be released -- walked up to the collection of Ai's painted vases, one of the popular focal points of the exhibition, picked up one of the 16 vases, and dropped it on the floor.
The installation, Colored Vases, exemplifies the powerful symbolism that permeates much of Ai's work. The vases are from China's Neolithic period, making them anywhere from 5,500 to 7,000 years old, and have been dipped in cheap, garishly colored industrial paint. Given the historical context, Ai's vandalistic alterations to the vases makes for a stirring and visually striking metaphor for the conflict between East and West, a conflict between culture and commercialism.
According to Craig O'Neil, a visitor who was at the museum at the time of the incident and was able to take a quick picture of the aftermath, the security guards' response was almost immediate.
"They had the front of the section cordoned off by the time I was up the stairs and I was on just able to sneak a picture from the other end of the room before they closed that side off too," O'Neil explained.
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PAMM officials confirmed the vandalism as a purposeful act in a short statement.
"This afternoon, a museum visitor intentionally broke a vase in the Ai Weiwei exhibition. The museum's security team immediately secured the galleries, and the person was apprehended. He is now in police custody, and the museum is working with the authorities in their investigation."
The museum declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation. It is interesting to note that the exhibit includes a series of photos of the artist picking up and dropping a similar vase to those currently on display. PAMM will remain open through Monday's holiday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.