I wrote about this earlier and the post drew a huge audience. I thought that that was that but another act of stupidity is underway. This weekend the New York Times published an article that represents round two in the saga of the artist who smashed one of Ai Weiwei’s pots in the Pérez Museum in Miami:
“The mustering of support for their fellow artist, Maximo Caminero, who has been charged with criminal mischief and could face up to five years in prison if convicted, includes a defense of the intellectual underpinnings of his action. ‘We do not support the act, but we support the intention,’ said Danilo Gonzalez, a painter and sculptor who said he spoke for many of his fellow artists.
“While Mr. Caminero’s purpose, as he initially expressed it shortly after breaking the vase on Feb. 16, was to draw attention to a dearth of exhibition space for local artists in Miami’s museums, he has since said that he was driven more by a spontaneous impulse to emulate Mr. Ai’s own destruction of vases, some thousands of years old.”
It sounds noble in some ways, but let’s forget that Maximo Caminero claims to be an artist for one moment. What if he was just a deranged museum goer who decided to break a pot? The art world would be united in its outrage at this barbarian act. But he is an artist. So we treat it as performance art.
The work he damaged is from Weiwei’s most important assembly of painted pots. It’s not just another group in this large series. Not that it would matter, but this is his masterpiece. I doubt that many of the artists expressing support for Caminero would be as friendly if he had done the same thing to one of their major works. So I sense a little artifice here and maybe a little Ai envy.
What I find most damming is that Caminero acted out of bedrock ignorance. He had no knowledge of what Ai was saying in his art and he had no knowledge that Ai was working with actual prehistoric pots. As reported above, protesting the poor un-exhibited Miami artists was not his motivation but his excuse. It was an impulsive and stupid act.
I think we should think twice before setting up a defense fund when someone commits a destructive act based on ignorance and stupidity in a public place where we trust visitors to behave rationally. Bear in mind I am not saying that Caminero is either ignorant or stupid overall; he might otherwise be a genius for all I know.
But he should pay for own defense, go to trial and suffer whatever consequences the law administers for such acts. And it should serve as a lesson to wannabes.
Lastly, the fact that a photograph of a pot being smashed motivated him to smash one himself makes me wonder if he is indeed an artist himself. This is the crudest response imaginable to a work of art.
In a survey taken three years ago about right wingers and their perception of art, the study revealed that they cannot differentiate between art and advertisements and believe that they play the same role.
So to them a statue of the Rape of Europa admonished the viewer to rush out of the museum and commit the same act. It explained a lot.
Caminero is acting out of the same coarse, misguided impulse. If he truly is an artist he would have found a more aesthetic and original solution that did not involve destroying a major work by a fellow artist. Let him serve jail time.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Detail from the center panel in Ai Weiwei’s photographic triptych, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn.
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