The FBI is investigating the authenticity of 25 paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat that are on display at the Orlando Museum of Art, The New York Times reported.
The paintings by the Neo-expressionist artist were reportedly found in a storage unit in Los Angeles in 2012, more than three decades after the artist died at age 27.
The museum’s director, Aaron De Groft, believes the paintings are genuine and were painted by Basquiat in 1982. According to Groft and the paintings’ owners, Basquiat sold the paintings for $5,000 to a TV screenwriter “who put them into a storage unit and forgot about them for 30 years,” per The New York Times. The current owners bought the collection after the storage unit was seized and auctioned in 2012.
If they are authentic, the collection is worth an estimated $100 million.
The 25 paintings in question make up an exhibit entitled “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection,” which has been on display since February 12, 2022. That same month, however, the authenticity of the paintings in the exhibit were questioned by an article in The New York Times.
Apparently, the artworks are painted on cardboard. But the FedEx typeface found on one of the cardboard pieces “was not designed until 1994 — six years after the artist’s death,” a former FedEx designer says.
This puts the authenticity of the other 24 paintings into question as well.
So far, the FBI’s Art Crime Team has reportedly demanded to see all communication between the owners of the paintings and the museum employees. However, the FBI declined The New York Times’ request for comments on the current status of their investigation.