The FBI’s Art Crime Team is currently investigating the authenticity of 25 Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings on exhibit at the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
According to a federal subpoena, the paintings in the Orlando Museum's "Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat" exhibit are said to have been recovered from a Los Angeles storage unit back in 2012. The works were largely unseen before the show’s February opening.
Per an article in The New York Times, questions were raised about the authenticity of the artwork after a graphics designer who had previously worked for Federal Express had identified the FedEx typeface on a piece of FedEx cardboard from one of the paintings that Basquiat allegedly painted on as one that was not designed until 1994—six years after the artist’s death.
Aaron De Groft, the CEO and director of the museum, claims the paintings are genuine Basquiats, citing statements from art world experts who were commissioned by the owners. The paintings are scheduled to be transported from the museum for public exhibitions in Italy on June 30.
On July 27, 2021, a subpoena sent to the museum stated that the FBI demanded “any and all” communications between the museum’s employees and the owners of the artworks “purported to be by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” including communication with experts. The subpoena also revealed that the FBI has also demanded records from the museum’s board of trustees regarding the paintings.
According to Putnam Fine Art and Antique Appraisals, if authentic, the Basquiat paintings would be worth around $100 million.