Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents seized all 25 works at a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit in Florida.
The FBI seized the paintings with a warrant based on a 41-page affidavit that said the agency's probe had unearthed“false information related to the alleged prior ownership of the paintings.”
Paintings by Basquiat are extremely expensive. One was sold at auction for $93.1 million in 2017 . Another earned $110.5 million in 2018.
The Orlando Museum of Art said the paintings are now in the hands of the law enforcement agency. A spokesperson for the museum said,“Though the Heroes and Monsters exhibit was set to close June 30; we will continue to cooperate, should there ever be any future requests. We continue to see our involvement purely as a fact witness.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat's paintings to go to Italy for exhibition
Federal art crimes investigators have reportedly been investigating the 25 Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings ever since they were first uncovered in 2012. Immediately following the opening of the Orlando exhibition in February, the controversy attracted further media coverage. Although the artwork was allegedly created in 1982, analysts have noted that one of the works was painted on the back of a shipping box that bore instructions to“Align top of FedEx Shipping Label here.” The report quoted a designer who worked for Federal Express.
Notably, the instructions were in a typeface that was not used until 1994, six years after the artist died.
Basquiat, who was born and raised in New York City, achieved fame during the Neo-expressionist movement in the 1980s. The Orlando Museum of Art was the first venue to exhibit his works. The works were found in an abandoned storage locker years following Basquiat's 1988 overdose death at age 27. The exhibition was originally to run through June 2023 in Orlando; the museum later announced it was ending next week. Bourmas-Fry said the art's owners declined to extend the museum's contract. Moreover, they were planning to send the works to Italy for exhibition. However, there are no criminal charges against anyone.
FBI Jean-Michel Basquiat
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