State Department Investigates Spain’s Prado

Artinfo 6 October 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A Florida-based Cuban family has prompted the U.S. State Department to investigate Madrid’s Prado to determine if the museum violated a law that makes it illegal to traffic in works of art owned by a U.S. citizen that were nationalized by the Cuban government.

The case involves the exhibition of two paintings by Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla — Summer (1904) and Clotilde Strolling in the Gardens of La Granja (1907) — that were on display at the museum from May 26 to Sept. 13. In August, the Fanjul family asked the museum to immediately withdraw the Sorolla paintings from the exhibition and return them to the family or to the Art Loss Register, where they have been listed as stolen property since 1993. The Fanjuls’ art collection was seized under the Castro regime and their home turned into an art museum after the family fled Cuba in 1959.

Last month the Prado said it was looking into the matter and seeking legal counsel in Spain and in the U.S. According to the 1986 Helms-Burton Act, if the State Department finds the Prado guilty, the museum director, his spouse, and his children could be denied entry into the U.S.

Original article 11 September 2009
Family Claims Artwork on Display in Spain Was Stolen

PALM BEACH, Fla.—A family whose Cuban home was seized and turned into an art museum when Fidel Castro assumed power in 1961 claims that two of the family’s paintings are being displayed in Spain’s Museo Nacional del Prado. The paintings, Summer and Clotilde Strolling in the Gardens of La Granja, by Joaquin Sorolla, were registered as stolen property with the international Art Loss Register in 1993. The Fanjul family believes that the two pieces, along with many other artworks, were seized by the Cuban government and sold internationally. Though the family does not object to the works’ public display, they are concerned that they be properly attributed, thereby maintaining the integrity of the collection. Since 1961, the Fanjuls have been working to secure their collection, including working with the U.S. State Department.

The display of stolen works could be quite problematic for the Spanish museum; under the Helms-Burton Act in the United States, possession of artwork confiscated by the Cuban government is considered illegal trafficking, which means directors at the Prado could suffer the consequences, including having them and their families prohibited from entering the U.S.
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