In a recent interview with the Art Media Agency, research professor Tania Mastrapa discusses art theft and restitution. An excerpt appears below.
Art theft and restitution, interview with Tania Mastrapa
Miami, 22 July 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA)
Tania Mastrapa directs Mastrapa Consultants, which focuses upon the privatisation and confiscation of art works from Cuba. Each December, she organises a conference entitled “The Art of Looting”, which takes a look at some of the most controversial issues surrounding the theft or misappropriation of cultural goods. Art Media Agency met Tania Mastrapa to find out more about her work:
Can you give us some information regarding your background? When did you first start investigating art theft?
My academic background is in international relations and comparative politics. I had two professors in my Master’s program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy who were Hungarian exiles. They both encouraged and supported my work in the field of post-Communist property restitution. As movable property emptied out from confiscated properties, artworks were a natural subfield in the greater property scheme. My doctoral dissertation dealt with property confiscation in Sandinista Nicaragua and Czechoslovakia and their later restitution schemes ; both as lessons for Cuba. While I was a doctoral student several Cuban exiles approached me to help them research their confiscated property in Cuba. As we looked through their old photos I asked if they knew what had happened to their artworks. Many people believe these items are lost forever, but they eventually turn up in the art market. From there I started digging deep for old news articles, catalogs and museum collections to unravel the trail of theft.