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Miami man pleads guilty to smashing Ai Weiwei museum vase

By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Miami man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to destroying a $10,000 vase by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei in February, agreeing to make an apology and pay restitution for the cost of the artwork, according to court documents.

Dominican-born Maximo Caminero, a local artist, also agreed to 100 hours of community service teaching art classes, according to the plea deal with the state attorney's office. He was also required to serve two days in jail, but received credit for time served after his arrest.

"I was wrong. I think about what I did every day and I find it hard to live with what I did because it still haunts me," he wrote in his apology.

Caminero, who was 51 at the time of the crime, was charged with criminal mischief after picking up one of 16 brightly painted vases at the Perez Art Museum Miami and throwing it to the ground when confronted by security, according to a police report.

He told police he broke the vase to protest that the museum "only displayed international artists," according to the police report. As part of the plea, Caminero also apologized to the museum, saying he realized it did in fact display local artists.

The piece, titled "Colored Vases," was part of Ai's exhibit "According to What," which opened along in late 2013.

The vase, dipped in bright paint by Ai, was originally estimated by police to be worth $1 million. But an underwriter paid Ai only $10,000 for the destroyed vase, according to the plea deal.

"We are happy with the result and hopefully this puts an end to all the speculation that this vase was worth $1 million as was initially reported," said Caminero's Miami attorney, John de Leon.

The artist has long used ancient vases and artifacts in his work, drawing criticism that painting them defaces the original work.

Ai has attracted international attention for criticizing China's government policies on democracy, free speech and human rights.

The Perez Art Museum Miami opened in December, marking an important shift in Miami's cultural landscape as the city looks to enhance its sun-and-fun image.

(Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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