Cuban Art on the Auction Block

Subasta Habana Art Sale
Subasta Habana Art Sale

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 25.- Top Cuban art goes up on the auction block Wednesday November 26th in an annual event held at the landmark Hotel Nacional.

Subasta Habana, an online site which stages four yearly public auctions of Cuban Art, has 53 lots from 42 artists for this year’s event.

The works belong to collectors, institutions and the creators themselves. Some of last year’s top sales prices were works by Tomas Sanchez (37,000 Euros) and by Carlos Enriquez and Rene Portocarrero (20,000 Euros each).

The auction took place for the first time in 2002, and has garnered followers and prestige over the years. Nonetheless, it still hasn’t been able to attract buyers from the US, without a doubt a very important market.

The reason is because the commercial restrictions imposed by the US Helms-Burton Act punish those who purchase or sell merchandise to or from the island. In theory, US citizens could take part in the auction, since the Berman Amendment “restricts the president’s authority to regulate, directly or indirectly, the importation or exportation of information or informational materials, regardless of the format or medium of transmission or whether the information or informational materials are for personal or commercial use.”

Subasta Habana Art Sale
Subasta Habana Art Sale

However, in practice very few US citizens attend, intimidated by the threat of reprisals from the US government.

Another controversial issue about the auction is whether it entails selling the country’s cultural heritage. The organizers have said on several occasions that all works sold at the actions are authorized by the competent authorities and have rigorous legal requirements for their sale in Cuba and abroad.

In an interview with a local newspaper Luis Miret, vice president of the auction organizing committee said, “Subasta Habana maintains the international norms for this type of sale and is already recognized by the most demanding and prestigious art circuits.”

Hotel Nacional
Hotel Nacional

Among the pieces being offered this year is a 17th century illuminated chalcography by English engraver Elias Durnford, the oldest piece being offered. The most famous Cuban artists with works up for auction this Thursday are Victor Manuel, Carlos Enrique, Mariano Rodriguez, René Portocarrero, Servando Cabrera, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Zaida del Rio.

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