“Colored Vases” Ai Weiwei Image/Jami Nix Rahn
In a misguided act of vandalism last Sunday, Miami based artist Maximo Caminero, 51, walked into the Perez Art Museum’s survey exhibition of Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei and deliberately smashed a reportedly $1 million Vase.
The vase was part of a group which included 16 brightly painted ancient urns dating back more than 2,000 years to China’s Han dynasty.
According to police, the artist explained, that he dropped the piece in protest at the lack of local artists on display at the museum.
This act of vandalism was misguided on so many levels. Had the artist done his research, he would have realized that indeed their are more than a few South Florida artists represented in the Museums collection.
Currently running at the newly inaugurated Perez Art Museum in Miami is “AMERICANA”, an exhibit which features local arists José Bedia, Naomi Fisher, Lynne Golob Gelfman and Frances Trombly. Upcoming shows later this year will feature Edouard Duval-Carrié and Adler Guerrier. This only leads one to believe, that it was not the lack of representation of South Florida artists in the museum, but the omission of one artist in particular, that aroused Caminero’s ire.
Caminero was also misguided in his manner of protest, which he may have garnered from Ai Weiwei’s own acts of activism. The traveling survey exhibition “According to What?” features works by Ai Weiwei that have been created over the past 20 years. Much of the work on view has served Ai Weiwei as a platform for activism and freedom of expression.
On display in the museum, directly behind “Colored Vases” are three large black and white photographs documenting Ai’s destruction of a Han dynasty urn. In the first photograph Ai faces the camera directly, displaying an ancient urn. The second photo captures the urn in mid air as the artist’s hands irreverently release it to its assured fate. In the third photograph the urns lays shattered at the feet of the artist.
Ai Weiwei destroyed the Han dynasty urn in an audacious act of protest, questioning the aura of antiquity and todays perceptions of art, history and politics. The important detail, that Caminero seemed to have missed, is that Ai Weiwei owned the vase and it was his to destroy.
Caminero admitted in a statement later that he had no idea of the vases worth. Again misguided.
Acts of vandalism toward works of art in major institutions and galleries are not uncommon. In 2012 The Tate Modern in London suffered damage to Mark Rothko’s “Black on Maroon” 1958 when a young Russian born man claiming to be a co-founder of the yellowism art movement tagged the painting in black ink or paint with the words “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism” .
The Menil Collection in Houston was also victimized recently, by a vandal who spray painted, an image of a matador, slaying a bull alongside the word, “Conquista”, onto Picasso’s 1929, “Woman in a Red Armchair” . A fellow gallery visitor (accomplice?) captured the incident on video and uploaded it to You Tube, the vandal later liked it on his Facebook.
It is not just modern art that is targeted. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has suffered several attacks over the years, some of the weapons of choice include acid, rocks, spray paint and a museum souvenir tea mug. Bullet proof glass has protected the Mona Lisa from most recent attacks.
The reasons, individuals attack works of art, are as varied as the definition of art itself, but not all damage to art is intentional. Accidents happen, in 2008 a visitor at London’s Royal Academy stumbled into a 9 foot tall ceramic sculpture by Costa Rican artist Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez, sending it crashing to the ground. As the day progressed museum visitors assumed that the shards of pottery were a part of the exhibition and were seen taking pictures.
love, has also been used as an excuse for defacing art. In 2007 a 30 year old french artist put on red lipstick and puckered up to an all white Cy Towmbly painting leaving her mark, or as she put it, “I left a kiss”
And then there is the excuse, “I didn’t know it was art” used by the cleaners when they found out that the half-full coffee cups, dirty ashtrays, beer bottles etc. they had thrown away at the Mayfair Gallery in 2001 was actually a work of art by Damien Hirst!
The destruction of art. for whatever reason serves no rational purpose, and when it is as misguided as it was in the case of Mr. Caminero, it is just sad.