25 Basquiat lost works under scruteny.

Twenty-five paintings taken from a storage box in 2012 are exhibited at the Orlando Museum of Art as authentic Basquiat, forgotten for thirty years. Although experts have expressed strong doubts, the museum prides itself on an "extraordinary discovery". Orlando (Florida). It's a story worthy of a Hollywood screenplay. In 2012, two treasure hunter friends, William Force and Lee Mangin bought twenty-five paintings on cardboard and plywood from an auctioneer in Los Angeles for 15,000 dollars (11,400 euros). The lot comes from a storage box whose owner, Thaddeus Mumford (1951-2018), a ruined former screenwriter and television producer, no longer paid the bills. In style close to graffiti, these paintings feature a few recurring symbols: crowns, skulls, arrows, figures with hats. It does not take more for the duo to convince themselves of having got their hands on a set, never seen before, of authentic works by Jean-Michel Basquiat .(1960-1988). What if the artist had sold them to Mumford in 1982, when he was living and working in a studio under the house of gallery owner Larry Gagosian, in Venice (California)? The two friends immediately seek to resell them without succeeding, as the provenance of the works raises the doubts of dealers and experts. In exchange for a substantial commission on future sales, the high-profile lawyer Pierce O'Donnell agrees to search for evidence to support their fable. His file includes a graphological report, the results of an analysis by an art historian and Diego Cortez, a great sp ecialist in Basquiat, as well as a typewritten and hand-signed poem "JMB" which evokes the meeting between the artist and the screenwriter. The market, however, remains decidedly very cautious, and the trio begins to nurture an inevitable frustration while Basquiat's paintings continue to break records in auction rooms. In 2021 Pierce O'Donnell contacted Aaron De Groft, newly-appointed head of the Orlando Museum of Art (Florida). The lawyer quickly understands that the new director is looking for a "blockbuster" exhibition to put his museum on the map, and he sees there an opportunity to coat his suspicious collection with the institutional legitimacy that he still lacked: he offers to show the world , for the first time, twenty-five paintings by Basquiat lost for more than thirty years, of which he says he can provide all the guarantees of authenticity. Excited, Aaron De Groft set up the exhibition "Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Thaddeus Mumford Jr. Venice Collection" in just a few months. A "highly improbable" story To Aaron De Groft's great displeasure, the exhibition did not arouse the expected enthusiasm among the experts and researchers working on Basquiat. Thaddeus Mumford's family, who were not associated with the preparation of the exhibition, say they never heard the screenwriter mention the existence of the paintings. Gagosian himself finds the story "highly improbable": how could these works have been painted in his cellar without his knowledge? The visitor realizes it quickly: in this exhibition, something is wrong. The labels, too long and wordy to be honest, get bogged down in heavy quotations from specialists, endless comparisons with canonical works by Basquiat, or the results of inconclusive scientific analyses. It is as if the commissioner wanted to convince us at all costs of the integrity of his story. Not content with not answering the numerous questions raised by this preposterous scenario, the museum arbitrarily establishes the provenance of the works from the introductory text and boasts without batting an eyelid, in the frail catalog, "one of the most extraordinary discoveries of art history". According to an expert consulted by The New York Times , the questions that remain unanswered: how to explain that Untitled (Self-Portrait or Crown Face II ) is painted on the back of a FedEx box using a typography created for the carrier in 1994 when Basquiat died in 1988? Not enough to destabilize Aaron De Groft: "Our job is not to authenticate the works", he replies. His number of visits has jumped 500% since the opening of the exhibition, enough to give him assurance: "You know the funniest thing? No one said these paintings weren't by Basquiat! » Seen in Le Journal des Arts, Barthelemy Glana

25 Basquiat lost works under scruteny.

Twenty-five paintings taken from a storage box in 2012 are exhibited at the Orlando Museum of Art as authentic Basquiat, forgotten for...