The FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art on Friday, seizing 25 paintings as part of an ongoing investigation into a controversial art collection, The New York Times reported.
The paintings have been on display at the museum since February of this year as part of an exhibit titled “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection.”
However, last month The New York Times reported that the FBI was investigating the authenticity of the paintings. The FBI obtained a search warrant to access the exhibit, seizing the 25 paintings on June 24, according to The Associated Press. The exhibit was supposed to run through the end of June.
Why is the FBI investigating 25 Basquiat paintings?
The paintings were reportedly found in a storage unit in Los Angeles in 2012, more than three decades after the artist died at age 27.
According to the museum’s director and the paintings’ owners, Basquiat painted them in 1982. He then sold the paintings for $5,000 to a TV screenwriter “who put them into a storage unit and forgot about them for 30 years,” according to The New York Times. If the collection is authentic, it would be worth an estimated $100 million.
The artworks were 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, putting the authenticity of the other 24 paintings into question.