Museum art theft set at 70 paintings or more, worth nearly $1.5M

At least 70 works of art worth almost $1.5 million were stolen from Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, CNN disclosed Tuesday. [For background, read “Authorities confirm theft…” in Progreso Weekly, Feb. 28.]

This week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released an illustrated list of the 70 missing artworks, which CNN showed to South Florida art dealer Ramón Cernuda. He told CNN that he estimated their total value to be nearly $1.5 million.

It was Cernuda, owner of the Cernuda Arte gallery in Miami, who first became aware of the theft, when he bought a painting by the Cuban artist Eduardo Abela that he suspected had been stolen.

He then alerted the Cuban museum, which immediately began an investigation and found dozens of paintings missing. Cernuda turned the painting over to the FBI so the investigation could proceed here in the United States.

Other than confirming the theft, the Cuban authorities have not released any updates regarding their investigation. But in an unexpected move, the Council of State dismissed Culture Minister Rafael Bernal Alemany from his post, which he had held for only two years. [Read “Cuban culture minister removed…” in Progreso Weekly, March 6.]

The reason given was “renewal.” Bernal was replaced by his deputy, Julián González Toledo.