The FBI’s Art Crime team is investigating the authenticity of 25 Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings on display at the Orlando Museum of Art, according to a federal subpoena and sources who spoke to The The New York Times. The paintings’ owners, museum director and CEO, Aaron de Groft, insist they are authentic. They cite statements from art experts commissioned by the three owners, all of whom have criminal records. De Groft and the Angel claim that Basquiat drew the works on cardboard and sold them to a late screenwriter, putting them in a storage unit. When the unit’s contents were confiscated in 2012, the current owners bought the paintings and claimed to have celebrated over lunch, with the original owner giving them a printed poem commemorating the initial purchase from Basquiat. investigation by The The New York TimesHowever, he questioned the business, with a designer who previously worked at FedEx saying that the font on a single canvas wasn’t designed until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death. Skeptics argue that the paintings’ backstory is unlikely, with friends of the original owner saying he never wrote or showed any interest in contemporary art. If the paintings are original, they are worth about $100 million, according to an estimate by Putnam Fine Art and Antique Appraisals. While the exact objective of the FBI investigation is unclear, selling artwork known to be fraudulent is a federal crime.
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