Missing Cuban artworks valued at close to $1.5 million
By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
March 12, 2014 — Updated 0000 GMT (0800 HKT)
UNESCO lists at least 70 artworks that are believed to have been stolen
Dealer who first reported the thefts places artworks’ value at close to
Ramon Cernuda: Art heists are difficult in Cuba — museums are tightly
Cuban authorities say investigation showed the pieces were crudely cut
Havana, Cuba (CNN) — Law enforcement officials in Cuba and the United
States are investigating a theft of at least 70 works of art from the
island nation with a value totaling more than $1 million, says the Miami
art dealer who first reported the heist to U.S. authorities.
On Tuesday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) circulated a list of the missing artworks, which
art dealer Ramon Cernuda examined and said would likely be valued at
close to $1.5 million.
Cernuda first alerted law enforcement officials to the theft in February
after buying a painting by a 20th-century Cuban artist for $15,000.
After researching the painting, Cernuda said he discovered the work was
registered to Havana’s National Museum of Fine Arts. He said he
contacted officials there who, upon searching their archives, confirmed
the painting and others were missing.
While no major works were stolen, Cernuda said the case was notable
because art theft is relatively rare in Cuba. Museums are tightly
guarded and artwork is usually inspected before it leaves the country.
“The theft is so much more complicated than the smuggling out of Cuba,”
Cernuda said. “To just get the art out of the museum is very complicated.”
Cuban authorities have not said whether any arrests have been made, but
a statement issued by the Cuban National Council of Cultural Heritage
said an investigation showed the artworks were removed from their frames
while in storage.
Cernuda said the same dealer in Miami who sold him the painting he
purchased had another 10 Cuban artworks for sale that appeared to have
been crudely cut from their frames.
“It’s an obvious tell that something is going on,” he said.
Cernuda said he has turned over the painting he purchased to the FBI,
and he said the agency is investigating.
Despite chilly relations between the United States and Cuba, Cernuda
said he expected any art that is recovered would be returned to the island.
“I am about certain it will go back,” he said. “Stolen property is
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