top of page

Orlando Museum Accused of Exhibiting Twenty-Five Fraudulent Basquiat Paintings

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Twenty-five formerly unexhibited Basquiat paintings are under scrutiny—along with the museum exhibiting them. The museum implicated in this scandal? Orlando Museum of Art

(OMA). The primary evidence of the paintings’ fraudulence: a font on FedEx cardboard.

"Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford Jr. Venice Collection" is Orlando museum's newest installation, set to appear at the museum from February 2022 to June 2023. A Basquiat collection is a major art acquisition for OMA, particularly because Basquiat's work broke monetary records in 2017 with a single piece selling for 110 million dollars, making it the 6th most expensive piece of art ever sold.

Source: Orlando Museum of Art

The work in OMA’s newest collection, like all work by prominent and internationally recognized artists, was certified by the required art authorities: from forensic handwriting experts, art history professors, to a leader from Basquiat's own estate authentication committee. All of them declared the paintings genuine.

Despite the certitude of reputable art experts, others remained unconvinced. On Wednesday, the New York Times published an article contesting the authenticity of the paintings—effectively casting national doubt on OMA’s Basquiat collection.

Largely unseen artworks said to be by Jean-Michel Basquiat were installed at the Orlando Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection.”Source:..Melanie Metz for The New York Times

Suspicion initially began circulating because of the story behind the emergence of the paintings. It is a long and contorted story (that many have deemed unlikely) that involves a storage locker, a dead screenwriter, the buyer of said storage locker, and Basquiat himself.

To explain with hyper-brevity: In 1982 Basquiat (allegedly) sold 25 paintings to a screen-writer named Thad Mumford, which remained in a storage locker until 2012, when Mumford failed to pay the bill for the locker. That same year, a storage locker 'picker' named William Force purchased the paintings at a storage space auction.

This improbable, yet not entirely inconceivable, narrative-story of the 1982 painting’s sale and Force’s later storage locker purchase struck many as too good to be true. Mumford himself has been unable to confirm or comment on the circumstances behind the paintings because he passed away in 2018 (although an authenticating séance may eventually become necessary).

The most convincing evidence of the artworks' forgery is the font on the FedEx cardboard, a canvas for one of the paintings. According to experts, the font on the back of the painting was not used in 1982.

Notably, this was corroborated by the designer of FedEx's font in the ‘90s, Lindon Leader, who stated that the FedEx font found on the alleged Basquiat painting could not have existed before 1994 (and again, he’s the one who designed the typeface in ‘94). And since the paintings are allegedly from 1982, this trivial typographical history is an issue for OMA, along with the authenticity of the paintings.

The corporate typeface on the cardboard was created in 1994, according to its designer, not 1982, as the paintings’ owners assert. This discrepancy has some questioning the authenticity of the paintings. Source: New York Times

In a revealing statement, the director of OMA, Aaron De Groft, told Orlando Weekly: “Our job is not to authenticate art... our job is to bring the best art to the people of Orlando and Orange County.”

Aaron De Groft, director of the Orlando Museum of Art, with one of the 25 works from the Thad Mumford storage locker said to be a Basquiat, “Untitled (Industry Insider),” 1982. Source: New York Times

If you're a fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat and want to go see some (questionable) artwork by him—Visit OMA soon, because those paintings might not be there for long.

bridddge will continue covering this story as it develops.

*A moment of human clarity and respect from bridddge*

People make mistakes (albeit some bigger, and more expensive and noteworthy, than others) but we don’t want anyone to lose their jobs. It doesn’t seem OMA intended to deceive the public—it looks like they got played too. We also aren’t 100% sure they’re fakes (but to be honest it seems like they’re fakes).

3,060 views0 comments
bottom of page