Jun 27, 2022 - News

FBI raids Orlando Museum of Art over Basquiat exhibit

FBI agents loading artwork into a car
FBI agents at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24. Photo: Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Remember those never-before-seen Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings displayed at the Orlando Museum of Art that the FBI's Art Crime Team began investigating last month? The FBI has them now.

What's happening: On Friday, FBI agents raided the Orlando Museum of Art, taking all 25 works that had been part of an exhibition on the life and work of Basquiat, reports the New York Times, which first aired suspicions that the pieces were phonies.

  • An affidavit for the search warrant called the collection's origin story into question, and raised doubt about the authenticity of the paintings, which are on scraps of cardboard.
  • The 41-page affidavit posited two possible crimes β€” conspiracy and wire fraud β€” and the FBI's investigation had revealed "false information related to the alleged prior ownership of the paintings."

Flashback: The Basquiat exhibit β€” titled "Heroes & Monsters" β€” boasted 25 of the late artist's paintings said to have been "lost" for 30 years in a storage unit in California.

  • Per the museum, a "picker" bought the contents of the storage unit for $15,000 at an auction.
  • In 2012, the picker reportedly tracked down the unit's renter, who confirmed that he bought the Basquiat paintings in 1982 on the recommendation of a friend.

Of note: Before his death from a drug overdose in 1988, Basquiat is believed to have made approximately 2,100 pieces of art.

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