FBI raids Orlando Museum of Art, seizes Basquiat art exhibit, museum says

Museum officials said FBI took possession of ‘Heroes and Monsters’ exhibit


ORLANDO, Fla. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Orlando Museum of Art early Friday, according to reports.

The museum told News 6 that the Heroes and Monsters exhibit, featuring the works of famed Neo-expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was now under the possession of the FBI.

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Museum officials said that they complied with the FBI’s requests, though the museum has no reason to believe it is the subject of any investigation, instead acting as a fact witness for law enforcement.

While the exhibit was set to close June 30, museum officials said they will continue to cooperate with the FBI should there be any further requests.

According to a search warrant, federal art crimes investigators have been looking into the 25 paintings since shortly after their discovery in 2012. The controversy gained more attention shortly after the Orlando exhibit opened in February.

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.

Orlando Museum of Art director Aaron De Groft has repeatedly insisted that the art is legitimate.

The museum closed to the public Friday. That is all the information released by the center at this time.

Check back with News 6 for further updates.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.