August 13, 2014
BY DAVID OVALLE
A Miami artist who smashed a valuable piece by celebrated artist Ai Weiwei at the Pérez Art Museum must serve 18 months of probation and pay back $10,000 in restitution.
In a plea deal announced Wednesday, Maximo Caminero must also engage in 100 hours of community service teaching art classes as a result of a self-professed act of protest.
“I was wrong,” Caminero said in a letter of apology released Wednesday. “I think about what I did every day and I find it hard to live with what I did because it still haunts me.”
In a case that stunned the art world, Caminero in February smashed a vase painted by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who represented that the item was hundreds of years old. Police initially estimated the artwork was worth $1 million but the actual cost turned out to be much lower.
Caminero told the arresting officer that he smashed the artwork as a protest on behalf of local artists who he felt were slighted in favor of international artists at the new $131 million complex on Biscayne Bay.
The vase was part of a politically charged exhibition of Chinese culture and art.
The Beijing-born Ai Weiwei, 56, is a sculptor, designer and documentary-maker who has not been permitted to leave China following a 2011 arrest for his political activism. Ai Weiwei condemned the Chinese government for actions he saw as corrupt following a 2008 earthquake in Szechuan.
According to a Miami police report, Caminero ignored a security staffer’s order to put the piece down before smashing it.
He was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a third-degree felony.
In his apology letter, Caminero stressed that he did not realize that, at the time he destroyed the vase, the museum was also exhibiting the work of five local artists. The museum is also planning a collection of six other local artists.
A lawyer representing the museum, Lilly Ann Sanchez, said “we’re glad this is finally over.”
“He has acknowledged that this kind of deviant destruction of someone else’s property is completely inappropriate,” Sanchez said.