FBI Raids Florida Art Museum, Seizes Paintings amid Questions of Authenticity

This 1982 untitled painting by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is seen on display at the Orlando Museum of Art, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. On Friday, June 24, 2022, the FBI raided the art museum and seized more than two dozen paintings attributed to Basquiat following questions about their …
John Raoux/AP

Authorities raided a Florida art museum this week, seizing multiple works attributed to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

No staff members were arrested.

The exterior of the Orlando Museum of Art, where artist Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings were on display, is seen on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. (John Raoux/AP)

“Orlando Museum of Art spokeswoman Emilia Bourmas-Fry said in a statement that they were complying with a warrant from the FBI for access to the ‘Heroes and Monsters’ exhibit, which is now in the government’s possession,” the Associated Press (AP) reported Friday.

Bourmas-Fry also said the museum viewed its involvement as that of a “fact witness.”

In March, the museum shared a photo of a bus advertising the “Heroes & Monsters” Basquiat exhibit, saying it was on view at the time.

Authorities had reportedly been investigating the paintings since they were found in 2012, the AP article continued:

The Orlando Museum of Art was the first institution to display pieces said to have been found in an old storage locker years after Basquiat’s 1988 death from a drug overdose at age 27.

Questions about the artworks’ authenticity arose almost immediately after their discovery. The artwork was purportedly made in 1982, but experts have pointed out that the cardboard used in at least one of the pieces included FedEx typeface that wasn’t used until 1994, about six years after Basquiat died, according to the warrant. Also, television writer Thad Mumford, the 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 the last time he had visited. Mumford died in 2018.

According to the Jean-Michel Basquiat website, his “life and work continues to inspire discussion, influence generations of artists and art in all its forms and make history all around the world.”

Meanwhile, Orlando Museum of Art director Aaron De Groft was adamant the artwork was legitimate, and the AP report said no criminal charges were filed in the case.

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