Maximo Caminero's Million-Dollar Attack on the Miami Art World
Illustration by Juanito "Quiccs" Maiquez

On February 16, a middle-aged man with hazel eyes and a crown of salt-and-pepper hair walked into Pérez Art Museum Miami. The heavy wooden doors on the new $220 million public building swung open with a whisper. Smooth jazz murmured from speakers hidden somewhere in the Dorothy and Aaron Podhurst Lobby. In the gift shop, teenagers in thick-framed glasses peddled $15 PAMM coffee mugs, $14 Frida Kahlo candles handmade in Peru, and $175 "reversible" Swiss cross blankets. The man forked over $12 for a ticket.

"Do you want to call the police?" Caminero said calmly. "Here. You can use my phone."

He didn't look like a tourist. While sunscreen-slathered visitors slapped around the museum in sandals and shorts, he was dressed unseasonably in a red jacket, black pants, and a stocking cap. And as the tourists traipsed straight upstairs to see the star attraction — an exhibition by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei — the man meandered around the first floor. He paused in front of a charcoal nude by Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, scratched his head at the sight of a three-foot scroll that Carolee Schneemann once pulled from her vagina, and lingered lovingly in front of a large painting by José Bedía, who happened to be his friend.

With each work of art, however, the man grew more frustrated. Of the 44 pieces on display downstairs, only two — including Bedía's — were by locals. Most of the artists hailed from Cuba or New York, and nearly all of them were dead.

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 works on a painting in his studio, whose walls are lined with quotes such as "Passion is a ruin."
Michael E. Miller
Caminero works on a painting in his studio, whose walls are lined with quotes such as "Passion is a ruin."
Caminero holds up quotes by Ai Weiwei.
Michael E. Miller
Caminero holds up quotes by Ai Weiwei.

The man headed upstairs and passed under a giant screen on which Ai Weiwei quotes were projected. One claimed Ai had been "born radical." Another argued, "I think we have too much history. It's not so important. I think people should have fun and enjoy their own time."

"Ai Weiwei is one of China's most prolific and provocative contemporary artists," a placard announced, "internationally recognized as a result of his actions that challenge the political status quo."

The man strolled around a large room plastered with Ai's photographs of New York. There were several selfies of the artist with a bicycle wheel. In another, Ai stood naked on a chair with his penis tucked between his legs.

Finally, the man arrived at the artist's most famous piece. Three huge photos showed Ai dropping a 2,000-year-old Chinese urn onto the ground. In front of the photos sat 16 other Han Dynasty urns, each dipped by Ai into brightly colored industrial paint.

The man stood silently in front of the third photo, staring at the shattering urn. He suddenly reached down and lifted one of the painted pots from its pedestal.

"Don't touch!" a security guard shouted from across the room. But it was too late.

The man turned to face the room. For an instant, he mirrored Ai Weiwei on the wall beside him: arms raised, pot in hand. Then he let go.

The peach and green urn exploded on the polished concrete. The bang echoed around the museum like a gunshot. Guards in black jackets came running from all directions. "Ugh, my God," groaned a tourist filming the spectacle on his cell phone.

But the man who had just broken a $1 million artwork didn't bolt. Instead, he looked up at the photos of Ai as if satisfied. He turned to the security guards.

"Do you want to call the police?" he said calmly. "Here. You can use my phone."


Máximo Caminero sits on the crumbling stoop of a Wynwood art gallery. One hand cradles his head while the other presses a cheap cigarette to his thin lips. He inhales nervously. And often.

It's been two days since Caminero smashed the urn, two days since he made international headlines, two days since his life became bizarrely wrapped up with Ai Weiwei's, and two days since he was arrested and thrown in jail. The serenity of the moment in the museum is long gone. Now there are only nerves.

Caminero rubs out his Maverick on the brick and sits down inside the gallery. On the table lies a copy of the day's Miami Herald with Máximo's mug shot front page, top fold. He picks up the paper and sighs. "I never expected that this was going to escalate all over the world," he says.

But escalate it did. That Monday, New Times broke the news that Caminero — a local painter — was the mystery man behind the bizarre urn-smashing. "I did it for all the local artists in Miami who have never been shown in museums here," he said at the time. "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."

Within hours, the story was in the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, and Le Monde. When a reporter reached Ai Weiwei in Beijing, the artist was angry. "His argument doesn't make much sense," he said. "If he really had a point, he should choose another way, because this will bring him trouble to destroy property that does not belong to him."

The museum called Caminero a vandal who had committed a "malicious act." Local artists were split. Some saw it as a powerful political statement. Others thought Caminero was jealous of Ai Weiwei's superstar status or simply desperate for attention. An anchor on CBS 4 even smashed a pot from Home Depot on live television before musing whether Caminero "was maybe suffering from some type of mental illness."

But the real story behind Máximo Caminero and the million-dollar urn isn't so simple. Beneath the moment of madness lies a lifetime of artistic struggle. And what seemed like senseless destruction was also the final brushstroke in a self-portrait of pain, divorce, and near-death experiences.

His protest also illustrated the real plight of local artists, who claim that the billions spent here during Art Basel and other fairs don't trickle down to those who need it most. Although most Miami artists disagree with what Caminero did, there is no doubt he has broken open a serious debate over where local artists fit into this city's growing international reputation.

"People here live like robots," Caminero says. "You see the cars line up on the highway in the morning. They are like slaves. Every once in a while, something has to shatter for people to stop and realize what's really going on."


Caminero wasn't the first to cause outrage by attacking an artwork. Almost as long as humans have created art, others have abused the pieces to make a point, to push an agenda, or simply to fulfill their insane desires.

"Destruction is a creative act in many ways," says Daniel Jewesbury, an art professor at the University of Ulster. "But like art itself, we need to think of what the motives for it are, what it really achieves, and whether something has been lost that outweighs the point made."

Art vandalism, as the term suggests, began with the Vandals. The Germanic tribes swept across Europe in the Fifth Century, sacking Rome and smashing many of its statues.

The word "vandalism" was coined during the French Revolution, when religious paintings were destroyed during the Reign of Terror. Since then, some of the world's most famous artworks have been slashed, shot, or sprayed with acid. Even Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa has been a target.

Most of the time, pure mental illness is to blame. In 1972, a Hungarian geologist named Laszlo Toth walked into St. Peter's Basilica and attacked Michelangelo's La Pieta with a hammer while screaming, "I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!" Robert Cambridge blasted da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist from close range with a shotgun in London's National Gallery in 1987, causing considerable damage.

The insane scourge of the art world, however, was Hans-Joachim Bohlmann. For 30 years, the German traveled around Europe spraying the faces of famous portraits with sulfuric acid. Bohlmann, who suffered from a personality disorder, damaged $200 million worth of paintings before his death in 2009.

Occasionally, art attackers are driven not by personal demons but by politics. In 1974, Tony Shafrazi spray-painted "Kill lies all" on Pablo Picasso's antiwar manifesto Guernica to protest Richard Nixon's pardon of the soldier responsible for the My Lai massacre. In 2004, Zvi Mazel — the Israeli ambassador to Sweden — tried to destroy a piece about Palestinian suicide bombers because he thought it was anti-Semitic.

But the most bizarre assaults are always those committed by other artists. In 1996, a Canadian art school student methodically set out to vomit primary colors on three famous paintings. Jubal Brown first ralphed in deep red all over a painting by French impressionist Raoul Dufy. ("[It] was just so boring it needed some color," Brown said.) Six months later, he barfed in blue on a Mondrian. It's unclear whether Brown ever completed his trilogy, titled Responding to Art.

Other art interventions have been more highbrow, or at least have avoided bodily fluids. In 1953, American artist Robert Rauschenberg painstakingly erased a drawing by the great abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and then hung it as his own. Many people considered it "a pure act of destruction, vandalism," Rauschenberg later admitted. But for him, it was "poetry."

Caminero's own protest was presaged by a similar event in 2012, when a Swiss art collector smashed a Han Dynasty urn that Ai Weiwei had covered with a Coca-Cola label. Critics praised that copycat performance.

Yet there was a crucial difference between these artists and Caminero. They all owned the pieces they destroyed. He did not.

It was only when police officers slapped handcuffs on his wrists and sat him inside a squad car that Caminero began to have second thoughts. Those thoughts darkened when cops began blindly asking museum officials how much the urn was worth — a guesstimate that could affect the charges against Caminero.

"Fifty thousand?" one officer asked. Caminero gulped. He thought the urn had been a replica from Home Depot, not a Han Dynasty original.

"More," said a museum official.

"A hundred thousand?" the cop tried again.

"No. More," the official answered. Caminero could feel his future being crushed under the absurd auction.

"Five hundred thousand," the official finally estimated. The cop rounded up to an even million, just to be safe.


Rosanna Caminero didn't know her ex-husband had been arrested until she turned on Good Morning America. But the man whose somber mug shot flashed across the screen wasn't the Caminero she knew. That Máximo Caminero had died eight years earlier, with the flick of a pen.

Caminero's act of protest was over in an instant. But in many ways, his life had been building toward that breaking point for eight years. Ever since his and Rosanna's divorce, Caminero had let himself become a different person: an artist willing to suffer scandal — even five years in prison — to make a point.

Caminero was born September 7, 1962, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. President Rafael Trujillo had just been assassinated the year before. Caminero's father had spent time in jail for criticizing the strongman and had been forced to flee to Buenos Aires for three years. He returned only after Trujillo's death.

But the dictator's shadow still loomed over the small Caribbean country. Trujillo's chosen successor, Joaquín Balaguer, soon took over. Caminero grew up in a peaceful middle-class neighborhood called Los Prados on the edge of the city. But political opposition leaders kept disappearing, and police detained passersby for no reason. Máximo learned not to talk about his father's exile.

If Dominican politics were claustrophobic, Los Prados was not. Caminero escaped for hours into the plains. Summer rains formed dirty lakes, which Caminero and other boys used as swimming pools. "It was wide open," he says. "It was where I first tasted freedom."

It was also where Caminero had his first brush with death. He was 6 years old and had gone swimming with friends. But the other boys ran off, and Máximo could feel his feet slip in the mud. The water rose to his chin, then his mouth. Suddenly, a pair of dark hands grabbed him from behind and pulled him out of the pool.

"It was a poor kid, a black kid," Caminero remembers. "He saved my life. He showed me another humanity."

There would be many other near-death experiences for Caminero. Eleven, by his count. The second came during a drunken teen outing, when Caminero fell from the back of a pickup truck as it careened around a corner. He landed on his head and heard something snap, but stood up and walked away. The third was a motorcycle accident in which Caminero narrowly avoided breaking his neck.

With each incident, the quiet kid became more pensive, even spiritual. He was always drawing, scratching out quick caricatures of his friends to coax a laugh. But Caminero also began to paint strange cubist scenes that shocked his private-school teachers.

Art didn't pay the rent, though, and there were few other jobs in Santo Domingo, so Caminero tried out for the army. He easily passed the physical and written exams but skipped a final interview with a group of generals. He was 20 years old and wanted to paint, not plot coups.

Soon after sabotaging his military career, Caminero met a fiery woman named Rosanna. At first, the 18-year-old didn't think much of the shy artist with the startling hazel eyes. But Caminero pursued her with a steady intensity.

"He was my first love, my first man," Rosanna remembers. "When you fall in love when you are teenagers, you think you have the world in your hands."

They married against their parents' wishes, and when Máximo received American residency, the couple moved to New York City. The artist found a job in a metal factory making windows and doors. But New York seemed cold compared to Santo Domingo, and Máximo and Rosanna soon moved to the only other place where they knew Dominicans in the United States: Miami. Rosanna was pregnant with their first child, and the parents-to-be rented a room with a bare mattress from an old Cuban lady in North Miami Beach.

Caminero worked nights at Flanigan's, listening to folk music and writing a novel while selling bottles of booze. When he arrived home, Rosanna and baby Maxiell would be asleep, so Caminero would stay up until dawn painting on the tiny apartment's balcony.

His canvases gradually grew bigger and bolder. Some were chaotic swirls of expressionistic color. Others were cluttered with symbols and figures — the language in which Caminero explored issues of race, conquest, and colonialism in the Caribbean.

It was 1988, and South Beach looked like a bombed-out city. More shops were shuttered than open along Lincoln Road. And the few art galleries that existed weren't interested in Caminero's creations. A gallery in Puerto Rico began selling his paintings, however, and the occasional checks helped cover a move to Allapattah.

It was there that Caminero had his last brush with death. He was running when he suddenly fainted. As a friend dialed 911, Caminero could sense himself drifting toward a warm, uterine light. But then he thought of Maxiell and his other daughter, baby Leana. Caminero turned away from the glow and came back to life.

The episode scared him. He began spending more time with his daughters. The three of them would meditate together, lying on the floor and listening to Middle Eastern music. "It was my sister on his right arm, me on his left arm. We'd all stare up at the ceiling and just kind of live in that moment, side by side," Leana says. "Those little things just made my father's day."

Caminero also redoubled his devotion to art. He rented a small crumbling studio at NE 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, where he would spend hours before and after work. It paid off. He sold only five or six paintings a year for about $2,000 each, but for the first time he felt like a professional artist.

Yet he also saw Rosanna less and less. By the time Caminero quit his job at Flanigan's in 2004, it was too late.

"My dad was always passionate about art, so passionate that he risked his whole marriage," Maxiell says. "He definitely put art as the focal point of the relationship. I think my mom was very jealous of that. He basically cheated on my mom with art."

Rosanna adds, "For 35 years I was happy with this guy, but things happen. It's difficult to marry an artist... He lived all his time in the studio to create, create, create."

When Rosanna asked him for a divorce in 2006, Caminero reluctantly agreed. He didn't even hire a lawyer. Instead, he gave her two of the couple's three houses — all mortgaged — and promised to support their daughters. When they finally signed the divorce papers, Rosanna and Máximo wept together in court.

"Everybody else in the court was really happy to be divorced," Rosanna says. "But we were hugging and kissing and crying."

Without Rosanna to dress him in sharp suits, Caminero began wearing baggy jeans and sweaters. He started smoking incessantly, surviving on what seemed to his ex like nothing more than cigarettes and coffee. He still owned a small house in Aventura but spent most nights sleeping on a small cot in his studio, beneath the complete works of José Martí and photos of his daughters.

Without his job at the liquor store, Caminero struggled to pay the rent for his studio. Court records show he was nearly evicted several times. But he preferred his life this way: stripped down to the basics. He finished his novel in three months. And he began to create feverishly, painfully, personally. When his father passed away, he painted a portrait of him on the blanket in which he died.

"I lost my fear," he says. "Before, I didn't really care if I sold a painting. But now I had to become a real artist."

His paintings kept selling in Puerto Rico. They also went up in restaurants and galleries in Panama, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. His work was included in an exhibition in West Palm Beach during Art Basel 2012. And last year, he landed a solo exhibition at Museo de la Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín.

But Miami was another world. Here, some galleries told Caminero he had to pay thousands simply to hang his paintings on their walls and then hand over half the money if they sold. Máximo stopped trying. When Art Wynwood rolled around in February, the gallery in West Palm Beach that represented him didn't attend. Caminero was cut out of the lucrative five-day fair.

Sunday morning, the penultimate day of Art Wynwood, Caminero sat inside his studio reading a book by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. In one story, the abbot of a Buddhist monastery presented the monks with a test: a beautiful vase of flowers. One monk after another walked up, stared at the vase, and set it back down in confusion. Finally, a young monk picked up the pot and promptly dropped it. "You are the person we are looking for," the abbot said.

Caminero decided to take a trip to the museum. When he saw the photos of Ai Weiwei dropping the urn, he knew what he must do.

"There are no coincidences in life," he says. "Sometimes, it doesn't matter how beautiful the problem is — you have to get rid of it."


Four days after Caminero's arrest, three dozen friends and fellow artists packed the Art Place on NW 27th Street in Wynwood. But the man of the hour was not among them. Earlier in the week, Caminero had canceled a news conference on the advice of his lawyer. Tonight, he was again a no-show. In his absence, friends and fellow artists fought over why he had broken the urn and what it meant for Miami.

"To say that this was an act of jealousy is ridiculous," Danilo Gonzalez, the host and owner of the Art Place, announced from behind a podium. "However, we should take this opportunity to discuss what many of us, including Máximo Caminero, have been struggling with here in Miami, where large institutions like Art Basel come in and ignore the local talents."

Some in the crowd cooed approvingly. But others scrunched their eyes in confusion. "It's bullshit," one artist said. "Just look at the timing of it. Máximo was excluded from Art Wynwood; then he goes and does this."

Caminero's protest ignited outrage around the world, but nowhere did it sow more discord than among artists in Miami. Some, like Gonzalez, saw in Caminero a reflection of their own causes célèbres. But many still considered Caminero's actions a sad and desperate stunt.

What's clear is that though most disparage what he did, Caminero isn't the only artist complaining about exclusive museums and extortionary galleries. Many believe that Art Basel — with its celebrity collectors and paparazzi coverage — does the local art scene as much damage as good. Miami's name might be bandied around with art meccas like New York, L.A., and Basel, Switzerland, they argue, but the city is actually leaving its own local artists behind.

They have a point. Of the 258 galleries at last year's Art Basel, only two — Spinello Projects and Fredric Snitzer Gallery — were local. And for every success story like Agustina Woodgate — featured at last year's Basel — there are hundreds of local artists who must fight for spots at satellite fairs or be left out.

In 2012, a half-dozen top local artists defected together to Los Angeles, including Jen Stark and the acclaimed collective known as Friends­With­You. "We love Miami, but collectors here just don't support our work," Samuel Borkson, part of Friends­With­You, said at the time. "The move is about being in a place where we can be part of a movement, where more money is invested in culture, and we will be more nurtured by people to continue making art that impacts others' lives."

Last year, celebrities, art speculators, and serious investors dropped more than a half-billion dollars at Art Basel. But just a fraction of that went to local artists. Between the two of them, Spinello and Snitzer had space for only a dozen local artists.

That's why some of them claim it was about time someone spoke up — or lashed out. "I support what Máximo did," says Emilio Martínez, a Guatemalan-American artist. "The galleries are as dirty as they can be. They take advantage of artists."

But even those who feel Caminero's message criticize his medium for expressing it. "The fact that he picked up a million-dollar vase and dropped it on the ground, that takes balls," admits Bert Rodriguez, another Miami-bred A-list artist who left for L.A. last year. "But it's kind of like suicide: It's a brave act and a cowardly act at the same time... I've been where he's at. I'm still there. Every artist is frustrated. But what he did was more ego-driven than altruistic."

Besides, local gallery owners dispute the idea that the deck is stacked against locals like Caminero. "This guy is off his rocker completely," Fred Snitzer says. "The whole idea of local disenfranchised artists with gripes, it's sort of like saying that if your kid can't get into Harvard, it must be Harvard's fault. Most of the time if your kid can't get into Harvard, your kid isn't good enough."

The issue is simpler, he says. "Good artists get shown and good artists sell, and bad artists don't. There is no indication this guy is a good artist. I hope he doesn't come and blow me up for saying that."

Much of the dissent in the art world centers on PAMM, a public art museum built with $130 million from taxpayers but named after a private real estate developer. Critics worried that the collection of this architectural marvel wouldn't live up to its new environs. So it was no surprise that the museum's curators brought in the big guns — perhaps the world's most popular artist, Ai Weiwei — to christen its opening during Art Basel in December.

But Snitzer, Rodriguez, and others say PAMM does plenty to support Miamians. A spokeswoman for PAMM declined to comment for this article but listed several Miami artists currently on display in the museum, including a solo show for Edouard Duval-Carrié. In fact, Duval-Carrié once shared a studio with Caminero. Even he says his fellow artist's act of protest did more harm than good.

"My biggest fear is that his act will jeopardize the relationship between the public and the art," he told New Times ahead of his show. "I hope PAMM won't be forced to place a security guard in front of every piece on display because of one individual's misguided actions."

By far the most common complaint other artists have about Caminero is that his protest was misdirected.

"Smashing or defacing someone's work is a line in the sand for me," says Dan Milewski. "There's lots of work that I don't like, approve of, or agree with, and I'm certainly concerned about the state of the art world and the market forces that surround it, but I personally would never destroy another artist's work."

Yet the turnout in Wynwood at Danilo Gonzalez's studio in the days after the protest makes it clear that Caminero's actions — right or wrong — have struck a chord. Martínez, for one, claims Caminero's critics "are still hoping for a show at the Pérez Art Museum" and "don't have the balls to do what Máximo did."

Local art scholar Babacar M'Bow says all of these arguments miss the bigger point. Caminero's protest poses deeper challenges for the museum and for Miami, he says. Instead of pressing charges, PAMM should hold panel discussions on the urn-breaking incident.

"We want art in Miami, but we don't want the controversy surrounding it," M'Bow says. "We have to look at this event in the context of Miami rising as a new international center. This incident is the price the city is paying."


"Buenas noches," Máximo Caminero greets a visitor from behind thick metal bars. But he's not in prison — at least, not yet. Instead, he's standing inside his studio, smack dab in the middle of Miami's MiMo red-light district. It's just after nightfall, and busty women in high heels are already standing on Biscayne Boulevard, scouting for johns.

"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."

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."

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.

"It was never my intention to make the world tremble just by dropping a pot," he says. "But people act like I'm a terrorist because I dared to disturb their peace."

He leans back on a tattered black couch and takes a long drag from a cigarette. Then he reaches into his paint-stained jeans, pulls out a piece of paper, and hands it to a reporter:

"If we don't push, there is nothing happening. But life is much more interesting when you make a little bit of effort." — Ai Weiwei

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