Tuesday, January 24, 2023

"After its controversial Basquiat collection was seized by the FBI, the Orlando Museum of Art has been placed on probation by a museum accrediting body"

"It is currently the only institution on probation from the AAM, which has granted full accreditation to more than 1,000 museums"

From a long and detailed NYT article last February:

Last weekend, 25 Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings were publicly unveiled at the Orlando Museum of Art before several thousand V.I.P.s. All of the paintings were said by the museum to have been created in late 1982 while Basquiat, 22, was living and working out of a studio space beneath Larry Gagosian’s home in Venice, Calif., preparing fresh canvases for a show at the art dealer’s Los Angeles gallery.


It certainly sounds like a tale straight out of Hollywood... Indeed, Gagosian, in a response to this reporter about the 1982 creation of these Basquiats, said he “finds the scenario of the story highly unlikely.”


[The museum] director, bristled at such skepticism. “My reputation is at stake as well,” he said in an interview. “And I’ve absolutely no doubt these are Basquiats.” Beyond his own trained eye — he has a Ph.D. in art history from Florida State University — he cited a battery of reports commissioned by the artworks’ current owners.


But the foremost proof in [the director]’s mind was a short poem [written] in 1982 commemorating the artworks’ creation


“The poem is almost like a receipt, it refers to the works, it refers to the inscriptions in the works, it refers to the time,” [the director] said. “I’ve absolutely no doubt.”


An official verdict on this whodunit by the Basquiat estate is now impossible — it closed its authentication committee in 2012 in the aftermath of a lawsuit over Basquiat artworks initially deemed fake. 


partial ownership of the artworks now lies with one of Los Angeles’s most prominent trial lawyers

From another long and detailed article in the NYT in May:

The F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team is investigating the authenticity of 25 paintings that the Orlando Museum of Art says were created by Basquiat and are on exhibit there, according to a federal subpoena and several people with knowledge about the situation.


Much of the back story establishing the paintings’ origins rests largely on the word of [two individuals], who have both served time in prison for felony drug trafficking under different names, law enforcement records show.


[F]riends and relatives are anything but convinced [the typed poem is legitimate]. It’s not only that [the alleged author] never mentioned an interest in contemporary art, let alone buying Basquiats.

It’s also that [he] didn’t type, according to [a longtime acquaintance]... “[He] was as technophobic as anybody I’ve ever met. He did not own a computer.”


an independent brand expert consulted by The Times, was shown a photo of the cardboard. He said that the typeface in the imprint was almost certainly based on Univers, a font not used by Federal Express on its shipping material until 1994

Orlando Weekly in July:

[An art expert says her] examination of the Basquiat paintings was misrepresented by the exhibit and the paintings' owners to lend legitimacy to the questionable artworks. [The expert] contacted the museum as soon as she realized that her work — which she says a private consultation with the artwork's owners that was not meant to be shared publicly — was being misquoted or outright fabricated. In emails between [the expert] and [museum director] unearthed in an FBI affidavit, [the director] told her to "shut up" and "stay in [her] limited academic lane."

NYT in August:

That mess, as [one ousted trustee] sees it, resulted from how [the board chairperson] reacted in July 2021 when the museum received a subpoena from the F.B.I. It demanded “any and all” communications between the museum’s board, its employees and the owners of 25 artworks “purported to be by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat” around which the museum built a major exhibition.

The subpoena arrived seven months before the Basquiat show opened to the public, but [the chairperson] and ... the museum’s director, chose to keep it under wraps and proceed as if nothing had happened, according to interviews


several members of the museum’s board of trustees who had been discussing plans to seek the resignation of the chairwoman of the board...— over concerns that she had kept the board in the dark about the mounting problems with the Basquiat show — were instead ousted from the board themselves. The museum cited a previously overlooked rule in its bylaws limiting trustees to nine-year terms, which the removed trustees had all exceeded.

*Previously: Phil Collins is an enthusiastic collector of Alamo memorabilia, but are the items fakes?