Orlando Museum of Art CEO out after FBI seizes exhibit

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Director and CEO of the Orlando Museum of Art is out, effective immediately.

The move comes less than a week after the FBI took possession of more than two-dozen paintings from the museum, after questions were raised about their authenticity.

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The museum is not under investigation and is said to have cooperated with the FBI’s request to turn over the artwork.

The 25 paintings, billed as Jean-Michel Basquiat originals from his “Heroes and Monsters” exhibit, had been found in a storage locker with an estimated value of $100 million.

A recent New York Times article suggested that they could all be fakes as critics pointed to a FedEx logo, questioning whether it was in use before the artist died.

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Orlando Museum of Art Board of Trustees Chair Cynthia Brumback released a statement Friday in response to the controversy.

In addition to the departure of Director and CEO Aaron De Groft, Brumback says the board is in the process of making “new decisions” with regard to upcoming exhibits.

“The Orlando Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees is extremely concerned about several issues with regard to the “Heroes and Monsters” exhibition, including the recent revelation of an inappropriate e-mail correspondence sent to academia concerning the authentication of some of the artwork in the exhibition,” Brumback’s statement said. “We have launched an official process to address these matters, as they are inconsistent with the values of this institution, our business standards, and our standards of conduct.”

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Longtime Orlando Museum of Art employee and CFO Joann Walfish has been appointed to the role of interim COO and will take over leadership of the museum.

The FBI hasn’t commented on the case except to say that “court-authorized activity” was conducted at the museum and directed all questioning to their Los Angeles office.

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