Adding a new chapter to the strange saga of the Basquiats that weren't, former Orlando Museum of Art director Groft has countersued his erstwhile employer this week.
De Groft filed papers in an Orlando court on Tuesday, claiming that OMA's chairperson and lawyers from Akerman retained by the museum signed off on the Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford Jr. Venice Collection exhibit of 25 "unseen" Basquiat paintings even after the FBI subpoenaed records relating to the exhibit in 2021. De Groft's suit claims wrongful termination on defamation on the part of OMA and he is seeking $50,000 in damages.
The Heroes & Monsters exhibition opened to much fanfare in February 2022 but almost immediately became the subject of scrutiny in the art world (and, as it turns out, federal law enforcement) when the New York Times ran an article calling into doubt the provenance of the works in the exhibit. Translation: They were fakes.
The FBI soon enough conducted an actual raid on OMA in June, confiscating the majority of the exhibition. And a few days later, de Groft was ousted from his position.
In August, OMA filed suit against de Groft and the owners of the fraudulent art, alleging that de Groft aimed to profit off the fake exhibit. Just days ago, according to reporting from ARTnews, court documents seemed to indicate that OMA was considering a settlement; that clearly looks not to be the case now.
Now de Groft is striking back, claiming in his countersuit that the museum is casting him as the "scapegoat" in the whole affair.
A spokeswoman for OMA told media this week, "At the advice of counsel, the Orlando Museum of Art is not offering any comment on this pending litigation.”
This is a developing story.
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