FBI seizes disputed Basquiat artwork from Orlando museum

The FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art on Friday and seized more than two dozen paintings attributed to the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat following questions about their authenticity.

Orlando Museum of Art Spokesperson Emilie Bourmas-Fry said in a statement that they were complying with an FBI warrant for access to the “Heroes and Monsters” exhibit, which is now in government possession. She added that no museum staff have been arrested.

“It is important to note that we still have not been led to believe that the Museum has been or is the subject of an investigation,” Bourmas-Fry said. “We continue to view our involvement only as a fact witness.”

According to a search warrant, federal art crime investigators investigated the 25 paintings shortly after their discovery in 2012. The controversy gained more attention soon after the Orlando exhibit opened in February.

Basquiat, who lived and worked in New York, found success in the 1980s as part of the neo-expressionist movement. The Orlando Museum of Art was the first institution to display pieces believed to have been found in an old storage locker years after Basquiat died in 1988 of a drug overdose at age 27.

Questions about the authenticity of the works of art arose almost immediately after their discovery. The artwork is believed to have been made in 1982, but experts have pointed out that the cardboard used in at least one of the pieces included a FedEx typeface that was not used until 1994, about six years after Basquiat’s death. according to the mandate. Also, television writer Thad Mumfordthe owner of the storage locker where the art was eventually found told investigators that he had never owned any Basquiat art and that the pieces were not in the unit when he last visited.

Mumford died in 2018.

Director of the Orlando Museum of Art Aaron Degroft has repeatedly insisted that the art is legit.

The exhibit was originally announced to run through June 2023 in Orlando, the museum later announced it would end next week. Bourmas-Fry said the owners of the art refused to extend the museum’s contract and planned to send the works to Italy for display.

“Based on my training and experience, I believe that the significantly advanced date of the international departure of the Mumford collection from the OMA is intended to avoid further public scrutiny of the provenance and authenticity of the works. and law enforcement,” an FBI special agent said. written in the warrant application.

No criminal charges have been filed.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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