Unesco Circulates List of 70 Works Stolen from Cuban Museum

March 10, 2014 | Print Print |

Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Cafe Fuerte

HAVANA TIMES — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published today a list of 70 artworks recently stolen from the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.

The organization condemned the theft which it said “threatens the integrity of the seized property”, placing them at the mercy of illicit trafficking of cultural assets at the national and international level,” stated UNESCO in a press release.

Days after the story first broke in Café FuerteCuban authorities confirmed the robbery, but without giving specific figures on the number of stolen pieces.

The theft of the works, mostly belonging to the artistic period known as the “Turn of the Century” on the Caribbean island (the time between 1897 and 1927), was discovered after several pieces were put on sale in Miami, home to the largest Cuban exile community .

The works on the list are mostly paintings on canvas by several artists with the most being by Cuban artist Leopoldo Romañach.

The Cuban authorities said storage facilities of the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana showed no signs of violence and that the frames were carefully repositioned.

“Access to the site was not violated, so it cannot be ascertained the exact date the theft took place,” said the National Council of Cultural Heritage in a statement in late February.

The authors of the theft cut the canvases and “neatly repositioned the frames, so that at first glance the heist would not be detected,” said the Council which asked for help to locate the stolen works.

In the days following the acknowledgement of the theft, the Cuban Minister of Culture, Rafael Bernal was summarily dismissed from his post, but no reason was given.


What's your opinion?

  • CUBAQUS

    It would be interesting to know how many of these painting were expropriated from Cubans and would be – in international terms – “stolen art” which the original owners or their heirs could reclaim as happens with the stolen art of the Nazi regime.

  • Moses Patterson

    The total value of the heist is estimated at only $1.5 million. In the international art world this relatively insignificant. In addition, since these paintings were cut from their frames, the value is even less for serious collectors. As CUBAQUS suggests, US authorities have promised to return each piece that surfaces to it’s ‘original’ owners when proof of ownership can be determined.

  • Chuck1938

    Please add to the list of stolen arts from Cuba, an entire arts collections that was sent to Daytona Beach by General Fulgencio Batista in the summer of 1958, as part of a cultural exchange between both countries, which the Museum of Arts and Science and the State of Florida, have refused to return to its owner. For more info, ” A bit of Cuba – in Daytona, by Laura Stewart, The Daytona Beach News-Journal 6/13/08.

    Since then, this museum and the city have turned these stolen goods into a center of tourist attraction, making millions of dollars on the backs of Cuban children, who have never had the opportunity in half a century, the appreciate the works of some of its most revered authors.

    It never ceases to amaze me, how those who loves to speak about stolen goods by the Cuban government, are willing to hide, shy away or pretend not to know, when the city of Daytona Beach, State of Florida or the Federal Government, caught red-handed, trafficking in stolen goods.