Artworks
Colored Vases

Contributor

Colored Vases by Ai Weiwei is aesthetically pleasing and all, but from an art historical standpoint it is highly cringe-worthy.

The vases used for this work are Neolithic vases from the Han Dynasty. Yep. These vases that now look like something you might be able to pick up at Target or Ikea with a fake succulent in it are 2,000 years old and impossible to replace. Of course, because this work is done by Ai Weiwei it has a political and social protest attached. In this case it’s a comment on the Chinese cultural revolution, during which important historical sites were raided and historical objects destroyed in an attempt to purge society of traditional ways of thought. So Ai Weiwei, in an ironic protest of the maltreatment of ancient artifacts by the Chinese government, effectively destroyed some ancient artifacts. 

Apparently protesting through art is contagious because a vase in the same series by Ai Weiwei, also called Colored Vases and also made of Neolithic urns, was smashed by a local artist in the Pérez Art Museum Miami in 2014. A man by the name of Maximo Caminero walked into the museum one day, picked up a vase, looked at it for a second, and then smashed it on the ground in a protest of the fact that the museum has never supported him or any of his artist friends. They are always bringing in new talent from other countries and Caminero had had enough. In a statement Caminero said, “No one has the right to destroy the work of anyone, but it’s possible that this served to help other artists. In the meantime, I’ll have to pay the consequences.” But he also claimed that, “[he] saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest.” Ai Weiwei’s response to the vandalism came from the point of view of a master protester. He said, “The argument does not support the act. It doesn’t sound right. His argument doesn’t make much sense. 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.” Hey, he's the expert.

Once Caminero found out how much money the piece cost (it was falsely rumored to have been worth $1 million) and that he could go to jail for five years, he was very regretful. In the end he only received 18 months of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a restitution of $10,000, the actual price of the piece he destroyed, which I’d say is much better than five years in prison. But why is it that when a regular guy like Maximo Caminero destroys a work of art he is a felon, but when Ai Weiwei does it, he is a genius? Because of property law, my friends. 

Some good came of this vandalism case, however. There now exists in the world a video game called Ai Weiwei Whoops!, a game in which you can smash pieces of Weiwei's Colored Vases. The more vases you smash, the more “approximate property damage” you earn! It’s great fun for the destructively minded.

Sources

Sources

  1. "Ai Weiwei, Colored Vases, 2007." SFMOMA. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/2016.75.1-10
  2. "Ai Weiwei's Coloured Vases: Clever Artwork Or Vandalism?." Public Delivery. N.p., 2018. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://publicdelivery.org/ai-weiwei-coloured-vases/
  3. Hunter, Will. "Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases." Architectural Review. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://www.architectural-review.com/today/ai-weiweis-colored-vases/8615...
  4. Madigan, Nick. "Ai Weiwei Vase Is Destroyed By Protester At Miami Museum." Nytimes.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/arts/design/ai-weiwei-vase-destroyed-...
  5. Madigan, Nick. "Behind The Smashing Of A Vase." Nytimes.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/arts/design/behind-the-smashing-of-a-...
  6. Madigan, Nick. "Man Gets Probation In Attack On Ai Weiwei Vase." Nytimes.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/arts/design/man-gets-probation-in-att...
  7. Steinhauer, Jillian. "Online Game Lets You Smash Ai Weiwei Vases." Hyperallergic. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2018. https://hyperallergic.com/127785/online-game-lets-you-smash-ai-weiwei-va...