‘Basquiat painting’ in Orlando under FBI scrutiny; in New York, couple tries to casually walk away with his $45,000 painting

Home » ‘Basquiat painting’ in Orlando under FBI scrutiny; in New York, couple tries to casually walk away with his $45,000 painting

Young and enigmatic American Neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat is in the eye of the storm of recent news

Fresh concerns have erupted about the authenticity of at least 25 paintings in the Florida’s Orlando Museum of Art’s “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibit — and these are now being examined by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Art Crime Team, according to a report in the New York Times. 

The information emerged as per a federal subpoena dated July 27, 2021. 

Suspicions apparently include a claim that the FedEx typeface featured on a piece of cardboard in the collection was not created until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death, NYT reported in February. 

Meanwhile, the owners of the paintings and the museum’s director and CEO, Aaron De Groft, have defended the legitimacy of the works, reportedly made by the Neo-expressionist artist in 1982 on pieces of scavenged cardboard and recovered in 2012 from a storage unit in Los Angeles. 

The Orlando Museum of Art

Art experts commissioned by the three owners of the artworks (all of whom have criminal records), have defended the authenticity of the paintings.  

If authentic, the paintings are worth about $100 million, according to Putnam Fine Art and Antique Appraisals, say reports.  

While the precise target of the FBI’s investigation is unclear, the sale of art known to be fraudulent is a federal crime. 

The FBI has demanded access to all communication between the owners and museum employees. 

The paintings are set to leave the museum on June 30 for public exhibitions in Italy. 

(The news was originally broken by The New York Times.)  

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One More King/Czar) (1982). Courtesy of the Orlando Museum of Art. | Via Artnet News

 

Walk into gallery, pick up painting off wall, and escape? Not quite! 

The couple who tried to make away with the Basquiat

And that’s not all in the news when it comes to Basquiat this week. It has emerged that one rather daring couple just strolled into a Manhattan art space in New York City — the Taglialatella Galleries — on May 14, and actually attempted to pick up a painting of the artist’s right off the wall and walk out!  

The man and woman walked into the Chelsea neighborhood art establishment, Artnet News has reported, and spoke to an attendant in what investigators call an “unknown European accent,” before going on to enter the gallery’s public area and then a private viewing room. They reportedly entered the 10th Avenue showcase just before 5.30 pm. 

Footage shows that the couple was then assessing a framed print of Basquiat’s Dog Leg Study (1982/2019) and looking up details of its value on their phone. It has a current valuation of at least $45,000 USD.  

Dog Leg Study by Basquiat

Next, the duo just casually removed the artwork off the wall, “distracted only by a nearby bottle of (Maker’s Mark) whiskey in the office, which they also took”. 

The brazen attempt, however, did not go off as smoothly as planned. A gallery staffer rather obviously saw the 3.5-foot framed print in their hands and stopped the couple at the exit. One of the braver female staffers, Hypebeast reports, “literally pulled the piece from the guy’s hand”, according to gallery owner Brian Swarts. 

Later, the two suspects were seen walking away empty-handed, security footage showed. 

Swarts also told Hyperallergic that this is not the first time the gallery has been targeted, as thieves had also attempted to lift a much smaller KAWS figurine last year.  

The investigation is ongoing and the NYPD has requested that they be contacted if this duo dashes across anyone’s way. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat

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