Can I take art works out Cuba?

Question: Can I take art works out of the country? Do I need special permission?

Answer: Visitors to Cuba can acquire art works – paintings, sculptures, whatever – in three ways: from commercial galleries, from handicraft fairs or directly from artists. As in many countries of the world, regulations (and fees) exist for taking these art works out of the country.

When purchases are made from commercial galleries, a special document – at no additional cost – is provided by the gallery itself for exporting the work out of the country. If this document is not offered, be sure to ask for it. Also be sure to keep the official receipt of purchase.

For art works purchased from either handicraft fairs or privately from artists, you must have an export document that is issued under the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales (National Register for Cultural Property). The Registro has a national office in Havana and extensions throughout the country under the Registro Provinciales de Bienes Culturales. As well, all official handicraft fairs have an individual on site designated by the Registro who provides this service.

In Havana, the Registro, which provides export documents Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to noon, is located at the following address:

Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales:
Calle 17 #1009
e/ 10 y 12
Vedado – Municipio Plaza
Telephone 833-9658 (Exportation Department, located on the ground floor)

If you are unable to get the appropriate export document in the provinces – where costs are usually a bit lower than in the capital – you can do so in Havana (if you’re coming here). Be sure to have all receipts of purchase.

At handicraft fairs, once you locate the Registro representative, you will receive a document with a sello (stamp), costing CUC 2 per work, which authorizes you to take the art object out of the country. The document needs the signature of a Cuban (ANY Cuban). In Havana, if the Registro representative is not present at the handicraft fair, Galería Forma, located on Calle Obispo at the corner of Calle Cuba (across the street from Hotel Florida), also provides export documents for handicraft fair art purchases.

If you buy an art work directly from an artist, you will need to take it to the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales in Havana, or to one of its provincial affiliates. Some art works can be taken out of the country without any kind of documentation; the Registro will inform you if your purchase is in this category.

To export works bought directly from artists, the cost for the export permit is CUC 10 for 1-5 works per artist. If you buy 5 works by 5 different artists, you pay CUC 10 per work. If you buy 5 works by the same artist, you pay CUC 10 for all 5 works. If you buy more than 5 works by the same artist, you pay CUC 10 per each group of 5 works. A Cuban (ANY Cuban; it doesn’t need to be the artist) needs to sign the form for you at the Registro, so bring a friend!

If you want to get the export document the same day, you can pay an Urgencia fee of CUC 5. If not, you pick up the document the next day and pay only the fee for works indicated above.

If you arrive at the airport without any export documents for art works, there is a Registro specialist based there. At the airport, the cost for the export permit is CUC 7 per work, even if you have several works by the same artist. Ask at Information where to find this person.