The Miami Herald
Oct. 25, 2002

Cuba hopes to woo American collectors to bid during Internet art auction

  Associated Press Writer

  HAVANA - (AP) -- Cuba hopes to woo American art collectors to place bids next month during its first Internet auction offering works by some of the
  island's best known contemporary artists.

  Works by the late internationally recognized painter Wilfredo Lam, along with artists Manuel Mendive, Armando Menocal and Roberto Salas Merino will be
  placed on line for public viewing and bids Nov. 1-30 at

  ''There already are a lot of Americans interested in the auction,'' said Rafael Acosta, president of the Culture Ministry's National Council of Fine Arts, which
  is organizing the event.

  Speaking to reporters this week, Acosta recalled that more than 800 Americans traveled here in November 2000 to attend the Havana Biennial, a
  citywide art exhibition. ''And many of them bought works of art to take home,'' he added.

  Collectors from all corners of the globe ''who move in the highest levels of the world of art'' have expressed interest in the event, Acosta said.

  The ''cyber auction'' will present 64 lots, most of them signed oil paintings or watercolors and each valued in the thousands of tens of thousands of

  There will also be photographs by Raul Corrales and the late Alberto Diaz, better known as Korda. Both are famed for their black and white images of the
  first years after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

  On Nov. 11, there will also be a live auction held in Havana, offering another 66 lots of works by some of the same artists, as well as Alexis Leyva, known
  as Kcho; Tomas Sanchez, and Tania Bruguera.

  The works are being put on sale by the artists, private collecters, galleries and Cuban institutions.

  Purchases can be made with credit cards or via bank transfer, said Luis Miret of Havana's Genesis art galleries, which is helping organize the event.

  It was not immediately clear how Americans would pay for the works because U.S. Treasury Department regulations prohibit the transfer of funds
  between American and Cuban banks. American credit cards cannot be used here.

  Miret said several options were being studied.

  He noted that past U.S. legal decisions had ruled that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allowed American citizens to own Cuban works of art,
  in an exception to the four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo against the communist-run island.

  In a high-profile 1989 case, a federal judge in Miami ordered that more than 200 Cuban works of art seized by the government from collector Ramon
  Cernuda be returned under First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression.

  Collectively, the works to be auctioned in Havana are worth about $1 million, said Lourdes Rodriguez of the event's organizing committee. She said it
  was too early to estimate a potential collective profit.

  Also impossible to estimate was how much could be raised by the extra handling fee of up to 15 percent that collectors will have to pay, Rodriguez said.
  She said proceeds from the fees, which will vary according to type of payment, will be used for for construction of new art schools and repairs to existing
  ones across the island.

  ''If it turns out to be as successful as we think,'' said Acosta, ``we could create an auction house in Havana.''


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