Museum goers who were present at the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art on Friday were escorted out of the institution due to an F.B.I raid. Agents went inside the museum and removed all 25 pieces of art from the walls.
The show opened in February and not long after, the authenticity of the artwork was questioned. The New York Times accessed the 41-page search warrant which stated that F.B.I. investigations—which began after the pieces were found in a storage unit in Los Angeles in 2012—showed “false information relating to the alleged prior ownership of the paintings.”
The document also referred to “attempts to sell the paintings using false provenance, and bank records show possible solicitation of investment in artwork that is not authentic.” Art consultant Todd Levin explained to Artnet News:
“These fake works have been around for some time and I’ve been aware of them. By quick visual inspection, they are immediately problematic. It’s clear to anybody who has expertise about Basquiat’s oeuvre—built up from decades of experience handling it, dealing with it, looking at it, and having known the artist—that these are, without a doubt, not by the artist.”
In a statement to the Times, museum spokesperson Emilia Bourmas-Fry said they will continue to cooperate with the F.B.I:
“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.”
The show was set to conclude Thursday and then travel to Italy. In April, The Root reported on the New York City Basquiat exhibit, “King Pleasure,” which displayed 200 never-before-seen pieces of art.