Artist pleads guilty to smashing Ai Weiwei vase

A Dominican-born man pleaded guilty and apologized Wednesday for destroying a valuable vase that was part of a Miami exhibition by celebrated Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Maximo Caminero, 51, a local artist, must pay $10,000 in restitution and was given 18 months' probation as part of a plea bargain, prosecutors said.

Caminero destroyed the vase on February 16 at the Perez Art Museum, in what he called a protest against the museum only displaying the works of international artists.

"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 said in a letter of apology.

Caminero must also carry out 100 hours of community service teaching art classes.

Lilly Ann Sanchez, a lawyer for the museum, told the Miami Herald: "He has acknowledged that this kind of deviant destruction of someone else's property is completely inappropriate." Authorities had initially valued the Han dynasty vase at $1 million, but that figure was later markedly revised down.

Ai had painted the urn, which dates from the Han Dynasty of 206BC-220AD, in bright colors as part of his "Colored Vases." Ai is considered one of the most important contemporary artists from China, but he has also clashed repeatedly with Chinese authorities and was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a roundup of activists at the time of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Earlier this year Ai, 56, shrugged off the Miami incident.

"When I received the report of the damage I didn't pay much attention because my work is often being destroyed or broken during the exhibitions," Ai told AFP.