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Miami Artist Destroys $1M Ai Weiwei Vase In 'Spontaneous' Protest

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AP Photo / Wally Santana

"I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here," Maximo Caminero told The Miami New Times in an interview after the incident. "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."

According to the New Times, a police report indicates that a museum security guard saw Caminero pick up one of the vases in Ai's Colored Vases installation. (The photograph of Colored Vases above was taken at a 2011 exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan.) When the guard told Caminero to put down the vase, he threw it to the floor. He then "spontaneously told [police] that he broke the vase in protest of local artists and that the museum only displayed international artists."

Caminero, who the New Times describes as a 51-year-old "reasonably well known local artist," told the newspaper that the act had been "spontaneous."

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

What Caminero didn't know: the vases are thousands of years old, dating from China's Neolithic period. To create his work, Ai had dipped the vases in brightly colored industrial paint. According to the New Times, the vase smashed by Caminero was valued at $1 million.

"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."

Caminero said he admires Ai's work, and that he "had no idea the vase had any value." He is now facing charges of felony criminal mischief.