Basquiat or not Basquiat?  The FBI seizes 25 works of dubious authenticity

Basquiat or not Basquiat? The FBI seizes 25 works of dubious authenticity

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has seized 25 works attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat and exhibited in Florida, their authenticity appearing doubtful, we learned on Saturday from the Orlando Museum of Art.

The museum, which exhibited them, complied on Friday with an FBI request to have access to the exhibition Heroes and Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiatand the works are now in the hands of the US federal police, museum spokeswoman Emilia Bourmas-Fry told AFP.

“It is important to note that we were not made to understand that the museum was under investigation,” she said.

The exhibit was due to conclude on June 30, and the spokeswoman added that the museum would continue to cooperate with the FBI. The federal police did not immediately respond to requests for comment from AFP.

The targeted works, painted on salvaged packaging, were largely unknown until the exhibition opened in February, according to The New York Times, which revealed the FBI operation on Friday.

According to the daily, one of the works was painted on the back of a package that read “Line up the top of the FedEx label here,” but the lettering typeface was only used by the shipping group. fast FedEx only from 1994, six years after the death of the artist, added the Timesquoting a former FedEx employee.

The FBI seized the works based on a 41-page sworn statement claiming “false information related to the works’ alleged previous owner”, according to the newspaper.

The investigation also showed “attempts to sell the works using false documents on their provenance and bank statements showing possible calls to invest in art that is not authentic”.

The owners of the works – an art dealer and a retiree – and museum director Aaron De Groft claim Basquiat painted them in 1982 and sold them for $5,000 to a TV screenwriter today. now deceased, Thad Mumford.

According to them, Mr. Mumford kept them in a storage room and forgot about them for 30 years.

But in the FBI document, an agent specializing in trafficking in works of art, Elizabeth Rivas, specifies that she met Mr. Mumford in 2014 and learned that he “had never bought any works by Basquiat and that he had no knowledge of the presence of works by Basquiat in his storage room”.

If authenticated, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 25 works could be worth up to $100 million.

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