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Ai Weiwei brushes off painter’s smashing of $1m vase

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Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei Tuesday shrugged off the smashing of a $1 million Han dynasty vase that was part of his exhibition at a Miami museum, saying his works often get broken.

Ai had painted the urn, which dates from the Han dynasty of 206BC-220AD, in bright colours as part of his "Coloured Vases", on show at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Behind it stood a trio of large photographs depicting the artist dropping another Han dynasty pot to the floor, where it shatters into little pieces, "to express the notion that new ideas and values can be produced through iconoclasm".

Dominican-born Maximo Caminero, an artist himself, reportedly destroyed the vase on Sunday in protest at what he felt was an over-emphasis on international art at the museum.

"When I received the report of the damage, I didn't pay much attention, because my work is often being destroyed or broken during the exhibitions," Ai told AFP.

"So, I thought... the museum will take care of it, or the insurance company.

"But (then) I see in the news it's an artist who said he intentionally destroyed this because -- he gives us some reason, which I think it doesn't sound right," Ai added. "That's my feeling."

Ai, 56, who is considered among China's boldest and most well-known contemporary artists, is barred by authorities from leaving the country.

He designed the Bird's Nest stadium used for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but he has since drawn the ire of Chinese authorities with his vocal criticism of Beijing's record on human rights and corruption.

He was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a roundup of activists at the time of the Arab Spring uprisings, and has since been denied a passport.

According to the Miami New Times newspaper, Caminero, who was released by police on Monday and could face up to five years in prison, described his act as "a spontaneous protest" inspired by the photographs in the exhibition.

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

His aim, Caminero added, was to act on behalf of "all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here".

In a statement the Pérez Art Museum said that while it could not address Caminero's intentions, "evidence suggests that this was a premeditated act".

"As an art museum dedicated to celebrating modern and contemporary artists from within our community and around the world, we have the highest respect for freedom of expression, but this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work," the museum said.

Ai told AFP that he was not certain what steps might be taken against Caminero regarding the cost of the vase.

"You know, it's not my business, because this work is borrowed by the museum," he said. "I think the museum will have their own way to deal with it."

Caminero told the Miami New Times that when he smashed the vase, he was unaware of its hefty price tag, reportedly estimated at $1 million.

"I didn't know that it was that amount," he said. "I feel so sorry about it, for sure."

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei Tuesday shrugged off the smashing of a $1 million Han dynasty vase that was part of his exhibition at a Miami museum, saying his works often get broken.

Ai had painted the urn, which dates from the Han dynasty of 206BC-220AD, in bright colours as part of his “Coloured Vases”, on show at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Behind it stood a trio of large photographs depicting the artist dropping another Han dynasty pot to the floor, where it shatters into little pieces, “to express the notion that new ideas and values can be produced through iconoclasm”.

Dominican-born Maximo Caminero, an artist himself, reportedly destroyed the vase on Sunday in protest at what he felt was an over-emphasis on international art at the museum.

“When I received the report of the damage, I didn’t pay much attention, because my work is often being destroyed or broken during the exhibitions,” Ai told AFP.

“So, I thought… the museum will take care of it, or the insurance company.

“But (then) I see in the news it’s an artist who said he intentionally destroyed this because — he gives us some reason, which I think it doesn’t sound right,” Ai added. “That’s my feeling.”

Ai, 56, who is considered among China’s boldest and most well-known contemporary artists, is barred by authorities from leaving the country.

He designed the Bird’s Nest stadium used for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but he has since drawn the ire of Chinese authorities with his vocal criticism of Beijing’s record on human rights and corruption.

He was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a roundup of activists at the time of the Arab Spring uprisings, and has since been denied a passport.

According to the Miami New Times newspaper, Caminero, who was released by police on Monday and could face up to five years in prison, described his act as “a spontaneous protest” inspired by the photographs in the exhibition.

“I was at (the museum) and saw Ai Weiwei’s photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it,” Caminero told the newspaper. “And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest.”

His aim, Caminero added, was to act on behalf of “all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here”.

In a statement the Pérez Art Museum said that while it could not address Caminero’s intentions, “evidence suggests that this was a premeditated act”.

“As an art museum dedicated to celebrating modern and contemporary artists from within our community and around the world, we have the highest respect for freedom of expression, but this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work,” the museum said.

Ai told AFP that he was not certain what steps might be taken against Caminero regarding the cost of the vase.

“You know, it’s not my business, because this work is borrowed by the museum,” he said. “I think the museum will have their own way to deal with it.”

Caminero told the Miami New Times that when he smashed the vase, he was unaware of its hefty price tag, reportedly estimated at $1 million.

“I didn’t know that it was that amount,” he said. “I feel so sorry about it, for sure.”

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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