Art from Cuba is exempt from the trade embargo, say artists, galleries, scholars and a civil liberties group who are suing the Bush administration for banning it.
The lawsuit charges the Treasury Department is violating a 1988 law that excludes paintings, sculpture and drawings by Cubans from the 27-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba's goods.The suit said the department was infringing on the First Amendment.
"Paintings are as much a part of the First Amendment as books. They are not, as the administration would have it, commodities like Cuban sugar or tobacco," said Michael Krinsky, a lawyer for the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee.
Joining with the NECLC in the legal action were the New York-based Center for Cuban Studies, several artists, art scholars, galleries and private collectors.
Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses also joined as "friends of the court" in support of the plaintiffs.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, asked that the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control be required to permit Cuban art works to be brought into the country under the "free trade in ideas" act, adopted by Congress in 1988.