Some time back, an incident took place in Miami Florida in which, according to the news, a local artist, Maximo Caminero, broke an Ai Weiwei vase worth 1 million dollars, in protest against the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) that decided only to display international artists.
This was done against the backdrop of Weiwei dropping a Han Dynasty Urn in 1995.
A Beijing Chinese born, contemporary artist and political activist Weiwei has made a name for himself by creating thought-provoking art. His subject matter; the Chinese government and their stance on democracy and human rights.
In 2014 Weiwei displayed colorful vases in the Perez Museum of Art, Miami. According to news articles Weiwei described it as vases originally made during China's Han dynasty, which he then, took the liberty to paint.
The story hit the the spotlight when a video of the artist Maximo Caminero, deliberately dropping one of the Weiwei vases, were released. The pots were on loan to the museum from the artist, Weiwei. Caminero broke the piece in protest of the many artists that never get opportunities to show their work locally.
This incident is thought provoking. I see several things to debate about; maybe in different blogposts
Let me first discuss the actions of Weiwei:
I personally question the validity of the origin of the vases. First the Han Dynasty Urn that he broke in 1995 and then, according to news reports, painted 12 + antique vases colorful, is a destructing act in itself. How did Weiwei come by such works? There were 15 vases on display. Coming from China, one can argue that true antique vases may be easy to come by there, but knowing its value, would or should it not be protected artifacts?
In the bigger scheme of things whether the vases were authentic of fake does not really matter, but the idea of destroying any art to protest an ideology, in itself is disturbing to me.
Let’s suppose that it is true Han Dynasty vases.
As I said earlier, I believe that if those were original vases, then every brushstroke is an act of destruction in itself.
In truth Ai Weiwei do not protest against the Chinese government, but he protest the hard labor of those potters long past. He serves only himself, getting attention, which he do not really need. My theory is confirmed when he mentioned to the news medias that he did not get much attention from the urn-dropping incident. Why is that? Or is his statement just another attention grabber?
These treasures are the true culture on which China was founded, BC. Destroying some of the inheritance of the people may not be felt physically; that is if there is plenty available, but it is definitely morally wrong.
Whether the vase that Weiwei broke in 1995 was fake or not, the example that he sets is very unwise. Who are we as artists to think that we can make and break the world like he believes he can do? Will that not make us just like those that destroy art museums and churches and monuments in the name of war?
Pete Pinnell, righteously said on Facebook that when a work of art has survived 2000 years, no person can claim it, but only possess it. If those vases that Weiwei painted were true Han Dynasty vases, Weiwei should have been responsible enough to have them in a safe place for generations to come and not painted them for his own attention.
As I said, his actions is unwise and self-serving. We as artists should set an example to the world and our first job is to build, not break.
But the whole story is questionable: If the vase that he dropped in the video was fake, as some says it was, I have more reason to ask the question if any of the vases that he covered with paint are truly 2000+ years old. Then I have full reason to question any of his other works, words or actions.
I, and other artists believe that honesty is the most important element of any art expression and we want people to identify with what we do.
I cannot identify with Weiwei as an artist; not when he destroys, or lie and then put a price, as reported, of a million dollars to it. There are enough people in this world that do the same in the name of activism and war.
Unfortunately we live in an age where it is difficult to build and too easy to destroy.
Caminero, who followed the actions of Weiwei and destroyed the work of the destroyer on the other hand, is just as unacceptable and he ended up in trouble ..... Weiwei, in my opinion set the example and instigated the incident of destruction in the first place. What if we all begin to follow those instigators in the name of art ......
During a trip to Antwerpen in 2016 we discovered the Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum (Dutch Beeldentuin Middelheim Museum) and saw the bridge, designed and created by Ai Weiwei. Since then I studied his art a little more.
Unconditionally of what you and I may think, Ai Weiwei is an excellent thought provoking contemporary artist, as one can see on the images below of the bridges that he created.
I am glad that he can live in a free world where his art can be observed and appreciated, but I stand by my belief that there is no need for him to go as far as to destroy art.
What is your opinion about that?
This blog post is revised after I had to redo my website. Below are previous remarks from my readers.
3/7/2014 04:53:18 am
I whole heartedly agree with all that you wrote Antoinette. And I especially agree with the point about honestly that you brought up.
3/7/2014 05:18:54 am
3/7/2014 01:50:27 pm
"Unfortunately we live in an age where it is difficult to build and unfortunately too easy to destroy"
Wanted to quote you in order to add, it's too easy to copy, and control. Teri
3/22/2014 03:43:32 am
I whole heartedly agree!!! The moment the brush hit the "antique" vase (if it was indeed antique), the item became destroyed. He was acting as painters do, who use old canvases to reclaim and paint their own image on top. I know there is a term for this, but it escapes me. What on earth would possess someone to take an antique artifact and cover it with chemical that could very likely destroy the composition of the ancient piece and ruin it forever. Irresponsible! Instead of preserving history - and ART - he is destroying them both...