Orlando Museum of Art Sanctioned After Basquiat Scandal

After its controversial Basquiat collection was seized by the FBI, the Orlando Museum of Art has been placed on probation by a museum accrediting body.

A red metal sculpture outside the Orlando Museum of Art.
The museum continues to face fallout from its controversial exhibition. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Months after its exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings was raided by the FBI, the Orlando Museum of Art was placed on probation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), an accrediting body with more than 35,000 members.

The museum was given probationary status earlier this month, as first reported by Wesh. It is currently the only institution on probation from the AAM, which has granted full accreditation to more than 1,000 museums. According to the AAM website, accreditation is the “gold standard of museum excellence” and helps institutions facilitate loans and attract funding.

“Our status is now temporarily probationary after the events surrounding the Heroes & Monsters exhibition, said Mark Elliot, OMA board chair, in a statement. “We are working with the AAM to remove our probationary status and expect to remain in good standing.” However, the museum remains accredited and has been a member of AAM since 1971, according to Elliot.

The museum’s 25 Basquiat pieces in the exhibit was seized by the FBI in June, after an investigation revealed longstanding doubts over the authenticity of the works. Museum director Aaron de Groft, who defended the exhibition, was fired shortly after. The OMA’s interim director, Luder Whitlock, resigned less than two months after stepping in for de Groft, while museum chair Cynthia Brumback stepped down in December amid reports of suspicious behavior surrounding the exhibition.

“The probation period is set by the Accreditation Commission and determined based on the museum’s particular compliance issues,” said Natanya Khashan, an AAM spokesperson, in a statement. “To move out of probation, the museum must demonstrate that it has addressed its particular compliance issues.”

Khashan, who declined to discuss the specifics of OMA’s situation, said probationary status is a rare occurrence. “At any given time, fewer than 1 percent of accredited museums are on probation.”

Orlando Museum of Art Sanctioned After Basquiat Scandal