Former Florida museum administrators say they were unaware of FBI interest in alleged fake Basquiats

Former Orlando Museum of Art trustees who say they were ‘fired’ in retaliation say they were not told of an FBI subpoena months before an exhibition opened presumed works by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The former trustees claim, in a report from the Orlando Sentinel, that if they had known of the agency’s interest in the work, another outcome would have been possible. Instead, after doubts about the works’ authenticity became public, the FBI raided the museum and seized the works; Following the raid, the museum’s director, Alan de Groft, was fired and last week his interim successor, Luder Whitlock, resigned.

Several former museum administrators told the Sentinel that they were removed by email after calling a meeting to discuss board chair Cynthia Brumback’s response to the crisis. A task force created in the wake of the Basquiat scandal, in a statement, dismissed the insinuation that the dismissal of the directors was a retaliatory measure, presenting it instead as the application of a recently adopted regulation concerning the limitation of mandates.

Brumback, the former administrators told the Sentinelkept information about the FBI subpoena from all but one of the museum’s board members while privately arranging a response to it.

In an email to Brumback quoted by the Sentinelone of the former administrators, attorney Ted Brown, wrote: ‘I believe you have to admit what really happened and that is you got the subpoena, you organized the response to the subpoena but you didn’t tell the board about the subpoena but made the decision to handle it on your own. […] By the time the board found out, the show was on.

Brown and other former administrators were also upset by an opinion piece that Brumback wrote for the Sentinel regarding the Basquiat scandal. In the article, she repeatedly used language suggesting a united front among museum trustees, calling on the citizens of Orlando to “stand with us.” But Brown and other former administrators say they had no information Brumback had withheld and learned the details of the FBI subpoena by reading about them in the news.

“The administrators are the administrators, they are the stewards,” Brown told the Sentinel. “There are questions I would have asked if I had known I needed to.”

Brumback’s term as chairman of the board ended in June; she was replaced as chair by Mark Elliott, who is also a member of the task force overseeing the museum’s response to the Basquiat fiasco.

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