Why Maximo Caminero's Ai Weiwei "Protest" Was Stupid

I paid the $12 admission, and the lady at the counter told me: "Galleries three and four are closed for the next hour or so." OK. Minor inconvenience. I had last been at Pérez Art Museum Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach, when it was free for everyone, basically, and it was way too busy to really absorb what you were looking at. This was supposed to make up for that. Now I could wander around at my own pace.

As I made my way up the central staircase, I immediately noticed the Ai Weiwei exhibit was affected by the sudden closure. I was a little disappointed because, to be honest, I had returned to check out his work specifically. Instead, I headed into the Amelia Peláez exhibit.

I noticed later that part of Weiwei's exhibit, located in gallery five, was open. I made my way back into the room, peeked into roped-off galleries three and four, and noticed it: shards of colorful ceramic strewn across the floor. Security guards escorted a museum rep into gallery four -- I assume she was called in after the accident -- where she put her hands on her head as if she were panicking.

Sucks, I thought. Someone must have knocked over one of the vases. Careless accident.

The next day, I discovered that the damage was intentionally done by local artist Maximo Caminero, who got exactly what he wanted. While other artists try to achieve fame through their own merits, Caminero found another way. By destroying a piece of artwork by Ai Weiwei, an artist infinitely more prestigious than himself, he got the notoriety he was after.

See also: Visitor Smashes Ai Weiwei Vase at PAMM

It would be amazing to think Caminero was familiar with Weiwei's work, particularly Colored Vases, but some of his comments yesterday indicated he was ignorant to the meaning of the piece. Some argue Weiwei's work already destroyed priceless ancient Chinese vases, but the meaning really goes deeper than that. It's a commentary on China's rapid -- and careless -- development into a world power that has pushed cultural relics to the wayside. (See Three Gorges.)

But Caminero confessed his act wasn't premeditated and occurred to him only after he had gone through the museum. He said he was upset by the lack of Miami artists included in the museum.

In reality, Caminero is just an asshole. Follow me as I poke several holes in his assertion that PAMM doesn't support local artists, along with the consequences of his actions.

See also: Miami Artist Destroyed $1M Ai Weiwei Vase Because PAMM "Only Displays International Artists"

Caminero put PAMM's reputation in jeopardy.

While Pérez Art Museum Miami has existed in some form since 1984, the museum achieved notoriety only last December. How is a 2-month-old institution supposed to explain such a careless mishap to artists and visiting exhibitions? Moving forward, there will be whispers in the art world as to whether works of art will be safe at PAMM. These things happen and works are insured, but regardless, nobody wants to see their hard work damaged. Weiwei's vase was valued at $1 million, but in reality, it was priceless. There's no recovering that.

There's been some argument that because of Weiwei's history of smashing historical urns and vases, he'd probably get a kick out of Caminero's stunt. Not so much. In a statement to the New York Times, Weiwei said, "The argument does not support the act... If he really had a point, he should choose another way, because this will bring him trouble to destroy property that does not belong to him." If those vases are meant to be broken, it's up to Weiwei -- not Caminero -- to decide when and where.

An Edouard Duval-Carrié exhibit is coming up.

I wonder if Caminero knows PAMM's next major exhibit will highlight the work of Edouard Duval-Carrié, a Haitian-born, Miami-based artist. Doubtful, because Caminero's stunt seems to be all about him. Funny thing is, on April 18, the museum will also debut a new exhibition called "Caribbean: Crossroads of the World," which will showcase two centuries' worth of work by Caribbean artists -- you know, something Dominican-born Caminero could probably relate to.

PAMM does support local artists.

Caminero's claim that PAMM doesn't support local artists is bullshit. The museum's permanent collection includes work by the likes of Naomi Fisher, Susan Lee-Chun, Bhakti Baxter, and many others. While their work didn't get the headliner treatment at PAMM like Weiwei, their works can be found throughout the auxiliary galleries. In fact, on my last visit, "Miami-born, Miami-based artist" was easily found among the biographies on the displays.

PAMM shouldn't focus exclusively on Miami-produced art.

Talk about limiting. No top museum in the world focuses its collection and exhibition space to art produced in one single city or region. And no disrespect to Miami artists, but even if PAMM did that, there are only a handful of Miami artists whose work merits museum collection and exhibition. It is one of the highest honors to be selected to become part of an art institution's permanent collection, a selection process curators and museum directors don't take lightly.

Here's a new phrase Caminero should learn: museum-quality.

Do you hear the phrase museum-quality thrown around? It's used to denote only a select few pieces of artwork. Even an artist's entire catalogue of work might not be museum-quality except for a small selection. Museum-quality transcends being just pretty to look at and usually has something more substantial to say about the world. Many artists are content simply selling to collectors (that's where the money is anyway), but some know a lasting legacy can be left once a museum chooses an artwork for its permanent collection. Perhaps Caminero should focus on how to achieve museum-quality distinction through his paint brush and leave the smashing of vases to Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei and other artists like him are important to an institution.

Ai Weiwei is an art supernova. When a museum as young as PAMM is able to book Weiwei's first comprehensive show, that says something about the institution. In turn, PAMM knows that by booking Weiwei's exhibit, it will get people to pay the admission price, because a museum with no visitors isn't much of a museum. Caminero better start getting used to the idea of international art stars occupying the main gallery space at PAMM -- as it ought to be.

PAMM could have a trickle-down effect to the local arts community.

Caminero's complaint about PAMM's lack of support is yet unproven. The museum is still building its collection and endowment, but the next few years will be vital for the institution. Not every museum can be the Louvre or the Met, but a great city museum not only puts up great exhibitions but also lifts the community around it through education and programming. So far, PAMM has shown it intends to be not only a great museum but also a great place for the community to gather. Time will tell if this has any lasting effect on the city, but it's way too early for Caminero to judge whether PAMM has failed Miami and its local artists.

Yes, Caminero, you're an asshole. Own up to it.

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