The 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 Basquiat and 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 exhibition was to close on June 30, and the spokesperson added that the museum would continue to cooperate with the FBI. The works concerned, painted on recovered packaging, were very little known until at the opening of the exhibition 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 packaging on which was written “Align Top of FedEx Label HereBut the typeface was not used by the rapid transit group until 1994, six years after the artist’s death, the Times added, citing a former FedEx employee. The FBI seized the works on the basis of a 41-page affidavit stating “de false information related to the supposed previous owner of the works“, according to the newspaper.
The investigation also showedattempts to sell the works using false provenance documents, 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 – as well as the director of the museum, Aaron De Groft, claim that Basquiat painted them in 1982, and that he sold them for 5,000 dollars to a screenwriter. late television director 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 works by Basquiat and that he was not aware of the presence of works by Basquiat in his storage“. If they were authenticated, the 25 works of Jean-Michel Basquiat could be worth up to 100 million dollars.