Orlando Museum of Art fires back at claims they are showing fake Basquiat paintings

click to enlarge Orlando Museum of Art fires back at claims they are showing fake Basquiat paintings
Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Untitled (Self-Portrait or Crown Face II)," 1982. Matte acrylic, wax crayon and paint stick on corrugated cardboard, 9 3⁄4 x 10 1⁄2 in. MJL Family Trust, LLC

Orlando Museum of Art's most-recent exhibit is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The "Heroes & Monsters" exhibit showcasing 25 never-before-seen paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat became the subject of national news when questions arose about the legitimacy of the works.

A report in the New York Times questioned, in particular, a piece painted on cardboard that contained a FedEx label that may or may not have been released after the young artist died of a heroin overdose at age 27. OMA has spent the day since defending their authentication process and claiming they did their due diligence in verifying the 25 pieces.

"We are confident the works are authentic and are proud to present them for the first time to the viewing public," the museum shared in a statement.

New Basquiat paintings face unique problems of verification. The authentication committee attached to his estate was dissolved following a lawsuit. And Basquiat is a prime targert for forgers, as a Basquiat painting currently holds the record for most-expensive piece of American art ever sold. Still, OMA maintains they did everything they could to authenticate the artworks, including bringing in handwriting experts and former members of the dissolved committee.

"We recognize the challenges it may pose when new works appear after an artist’s estate authentication committee is dissolved. That is why we diligently undertook a very rigorous process of research and evaluation before opening this exhibit," the museum said. "The art has been fully authenticated by credible sources, including the person who led the Basquiat estate authentication committee; signed off by leading Basquiat historians, forensic professionals and handwriting experts. This is a regarded industry standard of evaluation and was followed intricately in our planning for this exhibit."

The museum's recently hired director Aaron De Groft also maintained that his museum acted appropriately and that the paintings are genuine. However, he did tell the Sentinel that authentication is not the job of his museum.

“Our job is not to authenticate art,” he said. “Our job is to bring the best art to the people of Orlando and Orange County.”

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