FBI Seizes 25 Jean-Michel Basquiat Paintings from Orlando Museum Amid Investigation into Possible Fraud

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Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art on Friday and seized 25 paintings attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat following questions about their authenticity.

The New York Times reports investigators obtained a search warrant to access Basquiat’s “Heroes and Monsters” exhibit, which opened in February and had been set to close on June 30. The feds claim their investigation has uncovered “false information related to the alleged prior ownership of the paintings” and “attempts to sell the paintings using false provenance.”

According to an unsealed search warrant reviewed by the New York Times, investigators issued a 41-page affidavit under the presumption that the current owners of the artwork, which was allegedly recovered in a Los Angeles warehouse in 2012, could possibly be guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud.

Orlando Museum of Art director Aaron De Groft maintains that the art is legitimate, while a spokeswoman for the exhibit, Emilia Bourmas-Fry, told the New York Times that the museum does not believe it “is the subject of any investigation.”

“Though the ‘Heroes and Monsters’ exhibit was set to close June 30, we will continue to cooperate, should there ever be any future requests,” Bourmas-Fry said. “We continue to see our involvement purely as a fact witness.”

She added, “It is important to note that we still have not been led to believe the museum has been or is the subject of any investigation. We continue to see our involvement purely as a fact witness.”