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Fantastic Wall Street Journal article on contemporary Cuban artists

Posted March 31, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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original title: The Cuban Art Revolution

Collectors are betting the next hot art hub will be an island most Americans still can’t visit. Now, some U.S. art lovers are finding legal ways into Cuba to shop for works—before the market gets too crowded.

By KELLY CROW | Wall Street Journal

John Crago, an agricultural exporter from Colorado, took a business trip to Cuba last spring. He came back with 60 paintings, from island landscapes to abstract works, rolled up in his carry-on luggage.

With art from Asia and Russia in demand, some in the art world are betting on Cuba to be the next hot corner of the market. Prices for Cuban art are climbing at galleries and auction houses, and major museums are adding to their Cuban collections. In May, Sotheby’s broke the auction record for a Cuban work when it sold Mario CarreƱo’s modernist painting “Danza Afro-Cubana” for $2.6 million, triple its high estimate.

Now, with a new Cuban president in power and some hope emerging for looser travel and trade restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, American collectors and art investors are moving quickly to tap into the market. Some are getting into Cuba by setting up humanitarian missions and scouting art while they’re there. Others are ordering works from Cuba based on email images and having them shipped.

The collectors are taking advantage of a little-known exception to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba: It is legal for Americans to buy Cuban art. Unlike cigars or rum, which are considered commercial products, the U.S. government classifies Cuban artworks as cultural assets, and Americans can bring them into the U.S.

Getting into Cuba to buy the art is a trickier proposition. The U.S. trade embargo, in place since shortly after Fidel Castro’s 1959 communist revolution, has severely limited visits to the island by American art buyers. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control says it gives out only about 30 travel licenses a year to Americans who ask to travel to Cuba to scout for “informational materials” like art. Typically they are curators or art dealers.

Other collectors are taking advantage of legal loopholes to get into Cuba to shop for art. The Treasury Department, for instance, gives out travel licenses to Americans who pledge to do humanitarian, scholarly or religious work in Cuba.

END - Continue reading from SEE INTERACTIVE MAP and view some art photos, paintings and sculptures from Cuba.

I strongly suggest you visit the link to read the rest of the article and click on the other links there for more great information on contemporary Cuban art and the market for buying and selling art from Cuba. Also, be sure to visit our friends at CubanArt.org. This image from the article is one of the paintings in their collection.

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