Nicknamed “Eyeballs Eat,” this work in oil stick and acrylic paint on cardboard was attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat as part of Orlando Museum of Art’s “Heroes & Monsters” exhibition. (MJL Family Trust, LLC / Courtesy photo)
The Orlando Museum of Art board of trustees has begun hearing the results of an independent investigation into the circumstances that culminated in an FBI raid on the institution in June, when agents seized art purportedly created by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Although the FBI had served the museum with a subpoena about the art months before the opening of the “Heroes and Monsters” exhibit, board members said they were not informed the artwork was under investigation. Staff members have said they were pressured by then-museum director Aaron de Groft not to question the exhibition. He was later fired.
The board had commissioned Akerman law firm to investigate what happened behind the scenes of the public debacle, and the firm’s findings were to be presented to trustees by the end of September.
That presentation was delayed, in part by Hurricane Ian, until this week.
Mark Elliott, chairman of the Orlando Museum of Art board of trustees. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)
Mark Elliott, elected chairman of the museum board after the scandal rocked Central Florida, had pledged to share results of the Akerman investigation publicly once the law firm’s work was done.
“We want to make sure we have a thorough, substantive document,” he said. “We know there’s so much public interest.”
On Wednesday, he indicated it would take time to make information available, saying the public may not hear about the findings until the trustees take further action based on what they learn.
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“The OMA board is conducting a series of meetings and receiving findings under the guidance of legal counsel,” Elliott wrote in a short statement. “This is a multistep process. When the board acts in response to the information and recommendations received, it will share those actions accordingly.”
Meanwhile, the museum has been moving ahead with its post-De Groft exhibitions.
New Orlando Museum of Art board chair: ‘I’m sorry’ about Basquiat scandal ]
“He had initiated a number of exhibitions that were upcoming … and we’ve decided to not go forward with those in part because of his involvement,” said chief curator Hansen Mulford during a state-grant panel meeting.
Instead, Mulford said, he was working on exhibitions “that we sort of put on the back shelf due to Aaron’s interest in other things.”
Artist Bill Viola is pictured at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, on Monday, October 30, 2017. (Peter Wintersteller)
Currently, the museum has on view its annual picture-book illustrator exhibit, featuring Mexican artist Yuyi Morales; a look at Spanish Colonial-era paintings from South America and the Caribbean; and American art from its permanent collection.
Next month, a traveling exhibition titled “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” will present works by second-generation immigrants who explore their hybrid cultural identities.
And during the state-grant meeting, Mulford indicated even more future exhibits were in the planning stage, including one by acclaimed contemporary artist Bill Viola, who specializes in video work, and “an exhibition we’ve organized in house called ‘Cloth and Culture,’ about contemporary artists who use fabrics in ways that reference their cultural heritage.”
Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts, or email me at Want more theater and arts news and reviews? Go to
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel


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