FBI raids and Seizes a Basquiat painting from a Florida museum
Questions about the legitimacy of more than two dozen paintings claimed to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat led the FBI on Friday to raid a Florida art gallery and confiscate them.
The government has taken ownership of the “Heroes and Monsters” display at the Orlando Museum of Art, according to a statement released by museum spokesperson Emilia Bourmas-Fry. Additionally, she emphasised that there had been no arrests among the museum’s employees.
“It is important to note that we still have not been led to believe the Museum has been or is the subject of any investigation,” Bourmas-Fry said. “We continue to see our involvement purely as a fact witness.”
Federal art crimes investigators have been investigating into the 25 paintings since shortly after they were found in 2012, as evidenced by a search warrant. After the February opening of the Orlando show, the dispute began to receive greater attention.
Basquiat, a New York City native who participated in the Neo-expressionism movement, achieved fame in the 1980s. Years after Basquiat’s 1988 death from a drug overdose at the age of 27, works claimed to have been recovered in a storage locker were first displayed at the Orlando Museum of Art.
Almost soon upon their discovery, doubts concerning the artworks’ validity were raised. According to the warrant, Basquiat created the artwork in 1982, although experts have noted that the cardboard used in at least one of the pieces features a FedEx typeface that was not used until 1994, almost six years after Basquiat’s death. In addition, television writer Thad Mumford, who was confirmed to be the owner of the storage locker where the art was later discovered, informed authorities that he had never owned any Basquiat work and that the pieces had not been there the previous time he had visited. In 2018, Mumford passed away.
Director Aaron De Groft of the Orlando Museum of Art has frequently defended the authenticity of the exhibits.
While it was reported that the Orlando museum’s display will be open until June of 2023, that date has already been pushed back to next week. Bourmas-Fry said that the art’s owners had decided not to renew their contract with the museum and were instead going to show the pieces in Italy.
An FBI special agent wrote in the warrant application, “Based on my training and experience, I believe that the significantly advanced date of the international departure of the Mumford Collection from OMA is to avoid further scrutiny of the provenance and authenticity of the works by the public and law enforcement.”