Orlando Museum of Art executives resign amid scandal over alleged fake Basquiats

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The chairman of the board and acting director of the Orlando Museum of Art has severed ties with the institution amid an ongoing crisis sparked by a June 24 FBI raid in which authorities seized 25 allegedly fake paintings attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Former board chair Cynthia Brumback has been replaced by Mark Elliot but will remain involved in fundraising for the museum despite facing criticism for her role in orchestrating the exhibit. Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection.

Luder Whitlock announced his resignation as manager on August 25, shortly after his appointment to the post, replacing Alan de Groft, who was fired in June. Whitlock previously served as the museum’s acting director between 2020 and 2021, following the ousting of Glen Gentele, who faces charges for creating a “toxic culture” in the museum.

De Groft claimed the paintings in the Basquiat exhibit were created in 1982 and sold by the artist that year to screenwriter Thaddeus Mumford for $5,000, then later sold to a third party for $15,000 in 2012 when ‘a storage unit owned by Mumford was auctioned off after the collector failed to pay its bill.

The authenticity of the paintings has been questioned for several reasons, including that a work dated 1982 was made on a FedEx cardboard box that included items that the shipping company did not use until 1994.

Basquiat’s estate authentication committee was dissolved in 2012 following a lawsuit regarding its authentication determinations. The late curator Diego Cortez, a committee member, had signed statements endorsing works in the 2018-19 Orlando exhibit, following a forensic investigation into the exhibits’ signature by a handwriting expert in 2017.

The museum says it has set up a “working group” to manage the fallout from the exhibition. The museum said the show was reviewed by Basquiat researcher Jordana Moore Saggese, a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. In an affidavit securing the search warrant, however, Saggese claims she rejected several of the works and only determined that other works “could be” by the artist based on photographs alone.

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