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On Sunday, February 16, Maximo Caminero smashed a colored vase that is part of Ai Weiwei‘s “Colored Vases” project. This particular urn had been valued at approximately $1 million USD. He told reporters on the scene that he was inspired by Weiwei’s earlier work “Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn” in which the artist drops a two thousand year old cultural artifact in an attempt to elucidate the role of destruction in art and culture.
Three days later Ai responded to the incident: “Damaging other people’s property or disturbing a public program doesn’t really support his cause.” Many art theorists are left to wonder if Weiwei ought to have exclusive rights to art vandalism. Considering the smashing of Ai’s urn in the context of cyberspace helps to interrogate what role Benjamin’s notion of aura plays in all of this. Would Ai take offense to the destruction of digital representations of his work, or is it the loss of material, valuable property that provoked his response?
Ai Wei Whoops!