Art expert who questioned Orlando Museum of Art’s Basquiat exhibit gives her side of the story | Orlando Area News | Orlando

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OMA image credit: Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled (Boxer),” (1982). Matte acrylic, wax crayon and paint stick on corrugated cardboard, 25 3⁄4 x 20 3⁄4 inches. Basquiat Venice Collection Group

One of the works painted on cardboard shows a message on the back: “Align top of FedEx Shipping Label here.” But the font and ink color were not used by FedEx until after the artist’s death.

The Orlando Museum of Art’s “Heroes & Monsters” exhibit has been sunk, bringing now ex-OMA Director Aaron De Groft down in the undertow. Now, an art expert who helped tear apart the narrative of the exhibit is sharing her side of the story.

Dr. Jordana Saggese’s examination of the Basquiat paintings was misrepresented by the exhibit and the paintings’ owners to lend legitimacy to the questionable artworks. Saggese contacted the museum as soon as she realized that her work — which she says a private consultation with the artwork’s owners that was not meant to be shared publicly — was being misquoted or outright fabricated. In emails between Saggese and De Groft unearthed in an FBI affidavit, De Groft told her to “shut up” and “stay in [her] limited academic lane.”

In a new statement from Saggese released through her attorney, she went into further detail about her 2017 work around the supposed Basquiat paintings. 

I was not tasked with researching the provenance of the works, nor was I asked to provide an appraisal. Instead, I provided two confidential and tentative reports for the collectors, which were expressly not to be used or relied upon by third parties (including for authentication purposes) and could not be disseminated without my prior written consent,” she said.  “In these reports, I rejected 9 works outright. I concluded that 11 works ‘could be’ Basquiat’s based solely on a review of photographs while reserving the right to amend my opinion upon an in-person inspection, which was never provided. Finally, I determined that possibly 7 works “may be” his, with the caveat, that I was relying on evidence from other experts in handwriting and materials/condition… Both reports also clearly stated that they “are in no way intended to substitute for a certification of authenticity by the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

In the FBI affidavit that was revealed following a raid on the Orlando Museum of Art, other people in the orbit of the artworks repeatedly refuted claims that the artworks were from Basquiat. The supposed original purchaser of the artworks from Basquiat told federal agents that he had never met the famed artist and had never claimed that they were made by him.

Likewise, Saggesse maintained that she has always found the paintings to be likely forgeries.

“The use of my reports to attribute the works to Basquiat is not only in flagrant breach of confidence, it cynically misrepresents my endorsement of the Basquiat Venice Collection. Nowhere in the reports did I provide the positive or definitive attribution to Basquiat of any of the OMA works as has been falsely stated,” she said.  “Any further publication suggesting that I attributed the OMA works to Basquiat is likewise defamatory and I require that such publications immediately cease.”

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