"It was a lot worse when I first moved here," Caminero says, unlocking the gate and showing a reporter into a small room with high ceilings, plywood floors, and canvases strung up like clothes on a laundry line. Vines creep from the windowsill up the moldering white wall and around a portrait of José Martí. It's a far cry from the sumptuous wood and polished concrete of PAMM. "Someone broke into my car once," Caminero says. "And my studio twice."

"People act like I'm a terrorist because I dared to disturb their peace."

In the 15 years since, the neighborhood has softened a little. Motels and a strip club still dominate the block, but hipster restaurants and a puppy grooming salon have popped up. Nowadays, Caminero's biggest fear isn't robbery, but revenge.

"I worry some crazy person might come and slash all my paintings because of what I did," he says. "Not that I could blame them."

Máximo Caminero inside his studio at 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
Michael E. Miller
Máximo Caminero inside his studio at 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
Ai Weiwei's Breaking a Han Dynasty Urn, which Caminero says he took as "a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."
Michael E. Miller
Ai Weiwei's Breaking a Han Dynasty Urn, which Caminero says he took as "a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest."

Caminero himself has had to fight off the "crazy" label in the days since his arrest. His studio does him no favors. The walls are scrawled with dozens of phrases. Some were penned by the visiting artists Caminero lets stay for free. Others are lyrics from his favorite folk songs. "In my house, nothing is prohibited," reads one. "There is no salvation unless it's for everyone," says another.

When a Miami Herald reporter peeked through the windows the day after Caminero's arrest, however, she chose a much more menacing quote to lead the article about him: "The crazies are going to take control."

Caminero considered it an underhanded attempt to suggest he was out of his mind. His Facebook page was flooded with similar accusations, as well as threats to destroy his artwork as he had done to Ai Weiwei's.

But Caminero mostly shrugs off the criticism. It is something he got used to years ago, when he realized that to show his work was to expose his soul to the slings and arrows of anyone who saw it. The stress of the first few days, when newspapers from around the world were calling him every five minutes and demanding answers, has subsided.

Since then, Caminero has made several public apologies to both Ai Weiwei and PAMM — assumedly on the advice of his lawyer. Whether he really needed to is up for debate. Ai himself has acknowledged that his pieces are damaged all the time during transport. "A work is a work. It's a physical thing. What can you do?" he told the New York Times. "It's already over."

PAMM officials, meanwhile, have admitted the urn was insured. Neither it nor Ai will lose any money over the protest. On the contrary, the incident drummed up far more media attention for both the fledgling museum and the Chinese artist than the show itself.

In fact, some of Caminero's supporters criticized him only for apologizing. Caminero admits his mea culpa was more complicated than it seemed.

"My apology was to Mr. Weiwei because I think he's sore and I had no right to destroy his work," he says. "But the installation was adequate to do the performance. It wasn't a bicycle or a painting. It was a pot, like the one Weiwei broke. It was the right moment, and I made a point. I don't need to say an apology for the performance."

Perhaps the most painful irony is that breaking the urn wasn't Caminero's first conceptual art performance. It was also probably the most interesting statement he's ever made as an artist. Whatever you think of his abstract paintings or canvases covered in hieroglyphics, none of them has ever sparked as much debate as dropping a 2,000-year-old pot. Of course, that same act has made him persona non grata among Miami's art galleries and museums.

"He's pretty much a pariah now," says one art industry insider who asked not to be named. "He's radioactive. This guy is like kryptonite."

If Caminero had the marketing savvy to say, "Never sorry" — the name of an Oscar-nominated documentary about Ai Weiwei — maybe things would be different. But as it is, he's just a 51-year-old painter whose work is neither easily marketable nor politically fashionable. A 51-year-old painter facing up to five years in prison, no less.

Next month, more than 40 artists will sell their work for Caminero's legal defense fund. Yet prison remains a real possibility. Caminero's family is terrified at the thought.

"I pray every day that he doesn't end up there," Rosanna says. "I'll die of pain if he goes inside. He doesn't belong there. He's never killed a thing, not even a cockroach."

Caminero is calmer. "I'm like Christ, crucified," he says. "It's too late for me, but the museum is going to have to change and start showing other artists now." Among the changes he wants to see at PAMM: a permanent exhibition room for local artists, a board made up of artists and art experts, and yearly contests. (PAMM declined to comment about those suggestions.)

Caminero has pleaded not guilty, but he does regret what he did. Breaking the urn has brought "disharmony" into his life, he says. Worst of all, he hasn't been able to paint.

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