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See Danza Afrocubana Before it Disappears -- Again

Danza Afrocubana

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The picture on the right doesn’t do it justice, but at least it’s in color. If you saw it in the Herald last week, in all its black and white, inch-wide glory, you would have absolutely no idea what’s so special about it.

But Danza Afrocubana, by Cuban master Mario Carreno, is special: It debuted in New York as part of a 1943 Museum of Modern Art show dedicated to Cuban artists. It was snapped up – “probably for a thousand dollars,” says Cernuda Arte gallery owner Ramon Cernuda – and disappeared into a private collection for more than half a century. Danza Afrocubana came out of hibernation only last spring, and the Cuba-born Cernuda (who has lived in Miami since 1960) snapped it up at auction from Sotheby’s for $2.6 million. He sold it to a Miami collector for $3 million, and the painting will again disappear into private hands tomorrow.

“It was a lost painting,” says Cernuda. “Even the artist never knew who bought it. In one of his last interviews, Carreno said he would love to know who where Danza Afrocubana was.” He died in 2000, and never found out.

At more than five feet tall and four feet wide, the painting is an explosion of color and sensuality, depicting a racially integrated dance in a sugar cane field. It conveys movement and has hints of modernism like Cubist touches and the use of mixed media such as rope and cloth.

Cernuda threw a formal “farewell party” for Danza Afrocubana last Friday night, but there is still time to see it, until the gallery closes at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. After that, the painting will be transferred to its anonymous buyer.

“This is a great place to work,” says Cernuda Arte sales associate David Harrah, who was on hand when the newly purchased painting was unveiled at the Coral Gables gallery. “The day we receive new paintings is like Christmas.” --Frank Houston

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