'Complicated' Cuban Art Heist Uncovered

Paintings from national museum turn up in Miami

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2014 3:25 AM CDT

(Newser) – They're not quite working together, but American and Cuban authorities are both looking into the theft of at least 70 artworks from a Havana museum. In the first such heist reported since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, paintings worth a total of around $1.5 million were apparently cut from their frames while in storage at the Cuban capital's National Museum of Fine Arts, reports CNN. The theft was uncovered after Miami art dealer Ramon Cernuda bought a suspicious painting and alerted both the museum and the FBI late last month; the museum then reviewed its archives and confirmed the theft.

Cernuda says art theft in Cuba is extremely rare, and it is rarer still for stolen Cuban art to be found in the US. "The theft is so much more complicated than the smuggling out of Cuba," he says. "To just get the art out of the museum is very complicated." Soon after the museum acknowledged the theft, Cuba's minister of culture was fired without explanation, the Havana Times notes. Cernuda says he turned the stolen painting over to the FBI and he believes the agency will hand any recovered artworks back to Havana despite poor US-Cuban relations. "I am about certain it will go back," he says. "Stolen property is stolen property."

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.
The National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.   (Wikipedia/Miss Bono)
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