FBI Raids Orlando Museum of Art, Seizes Paintings From Basquiat’s Troubled ‘Heroes and Monsters’ Exhibit | Art Stories + Interviews | Orlando

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Photo by Macbeth Studio/courtesy OMA

FBI agents raided the Orlando Museum of Art early Friday, seizing more than two dozen paintings that were the controversy heroes and monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection exhibition, believed to be lost works by iconic artist Jean-Michael Basquiat.

The move came just days before the unrest Hero was supposed to end prematurely – almost a year early, in fact – and travel to Italy. (Which leads us to lazily wonder, how many times have paintings in a museum been deemed a “leak risk” by the federal government?)

According to a report published in the Orlando Sentinelan FBI team descended on the museum early Friday and took the Hero paintings, although no arrests were made, according to an OMA spokesperson. The museum was closed to the public during the raid.

The heroes and monsters collection of “Lost Works by Basquiat” was intended to be a big hit for the Orlando Art Museum, but things went downhill almost immediately after opening.

The New York Times published an explosive report questioning the veracity of art. OMA Director Dr. Aaron de Groft remained adamant that the work is legitimate. But then the NYT released a second report on an ongoing FBI art crime investigation – complete with subpoenas – surrounding 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,” an artist and close friend of Basquiat told OW on condition of anonymity, “but no one asked me”.

We’ll know more about this story as it develops.


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