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Bronx Museum's Cuban Art Exhibit Delayed Amid Fears of Seizure

By Samuel Blum | June 10, 2016 2:35pm | Updated on June 12, 2016 5:30pm
 The facade of the Bronx Museum of the Arts at 1040 Grand Concourse
The facade of the Bronx Museum of the Arts at 1040 Grand Concourse
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Photo: Bronx Museum of the Arts

MOTT HAVEN — The second part of a long-planned art exchange between The Bronx Museum of the Arts and National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba has been delayed amid fears that the art could be seized upon its arrival in the U.S., officials said.

The exhibition, titled "Wild Noise," was originally planned to open at The Bronx Museum this spring, and is the largest art exchange between the two countries coordinated in the last 50 years.

But the collection of state-owned art from Cuba faces the possibility of seizure in the United States, as a result of legal claims made by Americans whose property was stolen by the Fidel Castro regime after it assumed power in 1959, officials said.

The Art Newspaper reported Wednesday that the exhibition, which showcased more than 90 works from The Bronx Museum in Havana's NMFA last summer, is slated to to return next January. But Bronx Museum representatives told DNAinfo New York that the situation isn't uncommon, and that exhibition dates are often subjected to random changes.

The museum issued a statement on Wednesday, emphasizing that a recent diplomatic thaw enacted by the Obama administration has made the endeavor possible: "Not long ago no one would have imagined that we could have exhibited works from our collection there, as we successfully did in 2015."

But Bronx Museum executive director Holly Block emphasized precaution in a recent interview with the New York Times. She told the paper on Thursday: “There are no test cases for something like this, because it hasn’t been done.”

The US recently announced it was resuming normalized relations with Cuba — but many diplomatic hurdles enacted by the US in the 1960 Trade Embargo remain, including travel trade sanctions. 

Block added that while the possibility of Cuban art being seized has “been a worry from the very beginning," there have been other impediments too, including air conditioning problems at the Bronx Museum and recent leadership changes at the NMFA. 

The Bronx Museum is currently applying with the U.S. State Department for immunity from seizure — a process that representatives say is a common practice for many exhibitions.