FBI raids Orlando Museum of Art, seizes paintings from troubled 'Heroes and Monsters' Basquiat exhibition

click to enlarge FBI raids Orlando Museum of Art, seizes paintings from troubled 'Heroes and Monsters' Basquiat exhibition
Photo by Macbeth Studio/courtesy OMA

FBI agents raided Orlando Museum of Art early Friday, seizing over two dozen paintings that made up the controversial Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection  exhibition, purported to be lost works by iconic artist Jean-Michael Basquiat.

The move came mere days before the the troubled Heroes was set to sputter to an early end — almost a year early, in fact — and travel to Italy. (Which leads us to muse idly, how many times have paintings in a museum been considered a 'flight risk' by the feds?)

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, an FBI team descended on the museum early Friday and bundled off the Heroes paintings, though no arrests were made, according to an OMA spokesperson. The museum was closed to the public during the raid.

The Heroes & Monsters collection of "lost Basquiat works" was intended as a grand coup for the Orlando Museum of Art, but things soured almost immediately after the opening.

The New York Times published a bombshell report questioning the veracity of the art. OMA head Dr. Aaron de Groft has remained adamant that the works are legitimate. But then the NYT published a second report about an ongoing FBI Art Crimes investigation — with subpoenas issued — around these paintings.

OW  then looked into the two owners of these lost works — Michael William Force and John Leo Mangan III — and found a history of shady dealings.

"When I saw the images I knew they were fake," said an artist and close friend of Basquiat to OW on condition of anonymity, "but no one asked me that."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

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