Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei not amused by smashing of US$1m vase

Smashing a million-dollar vase in the name of art is justified ‘if you own the piece’, says Ai Weiwei

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 8:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 5:02am

Artist Ai Weiwei was apparently not amused after one of his vases valued at US$1 million was deliberately smashed at an art museum in Miami.

Ai, who was famously photographed breaking a Han dynasty urn earlier in his career, told the South China Morning Post smashing up a piece of art was acceptable, but only if you own it.

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A Florida artist, Maximo Caminero, 51, has been charged with criminal mischief after he broke the brightly coloured vase on display at the Perez Art Museum on Sunday.

Caminero said he was a fan of the Chinese artist and his actions had partly been inspired by his behaviour.

Ai produced Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn in 1995, a set of three photos of himself dispassionately smashing an antique about 2,000 years old, to demonstrate his sceptical attitude towards cultural values.

"I saw Ai Weiwei's photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it," Caminero said. "I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."

But Ai told the Post yesterday that Caminero's act was very different from his own.

"I smashed my own belongings whereas he broke others'. Behavioural art can go to extremes, like you can hurt yourself for instance, but you cannot hurt others for the sake of art, can you?"

Ai said he had no problem with Caminero calling his actions art, as long as "he could bear the legal consequences".

I smashed my own belongings whereas he broke others'. Behavioural art can go to extremes
Artist Ai Weiwei

Caminero told police his act was a performance protest against the Miami museum, which only displays works by international artists.

The broken piece is one of 16 called Coloured Vases displayed at Ai's exhibition "According to What?", which opened last year.

Ai covered the vases with brightly coloured paints and a similar work fetched over US$156,000 at auction in London two years ago.

Caminero insisted that he was unaware he was destroying a valuable artwork during his protest.

"I didn't know that it was that amount [US$1 million]," he said, adding he thought it was "a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly".

Additional reporting by Reuters in Miami