Yesterday, art lovers around the world were shocked when someone strolled into the Pérez Art Museum Miami and destroyed a $1 million vase by Ai Weiwei.
Well, the story gets even more shocking. That's because the vandal wasn't a political objector or a random crazy person. He was a fellow artist.
The vandal is actually Maximo Caminero, a well-known local painter who has shown works at the Fountain Art Fair. He tells New Times that he destroyed the vase to make a point.
"I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here," he says. "They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It's the same political situation over and over again. I've been here for 30 years and it's always the same."
See also: Visitor Smashes Ai Weiwei Vase at PAMM
According to a police report, a PAMM security guard saw Caminero pick up the vase yesterday afternoon. When she told him to put down the piece of art, he "threw and broke the vase on the floor in protest."
Caminero then "spontaneously told [police] that he broke the vase in protest of local artists and that the museum only displayed international artists," according to the report.
Caminero is a reasonably well known local artist. The 51-year-old painter was born in the Dominican Republic and has shown his frenetic, colorful, abstract, Caribbean-influenced paintings at art fairs including Fountain.
Last year his work went on display at Babacar M'Bow's Multitudes Contemporary Art Gallery in Little Haiti.
Yet Caminero tells New Times that he had no idea Weiwei's work was worth $1 million.
"I didn't know that it was that amount," he says. "I feel so sorry about it, for sure."
"It was a spontaneous protest," he explains. "I was at PAMM and saw Ai Weiwei's photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it. And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."
"If you saw the vases on display and the way they were painted there was no way one would think the artist had painted over an ancient artifact," Caminero says. "Instead I thought it was a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly."
"I wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are many foreign artists like myself and others who have been here thirty years and have never received attention or support from MAM or now PAMM and other local museums," he continues. "We are all taxpayers here and PAMM used $200 million of public money on its building and opened with Weiwei's work to draw attention to itself and as always continues to ignore local artists."
"I lifted the Vase and let it smash on the floor like WeiWei did in his picture then waited for authorities peacefully and never resisted punishment," he says of his act of defiance. "But honestly I had no idea the vase had any value. I admire Ai Weiwei greatly and have always supported his actions while he was suffering indignities from the Chinese government."
Here is Caminero's artist statement from Facebook:
Caminero now faces felony criminal mischief charges.
Update: Ai Weiwei has condemned Caminero's protest, but some Miami artists are supporting him. One calls Caminero's crime "the most courageous act ever undertaken by a Miami artist." Read the full update here.
Carlos Suarez De Jesus contributed reporting to this article.