Aaron De Groft, the former executive director of the Orlando Museum of Art, has countered with claims of wrongful termination and defamation following the museum’s lawsuit against him over a scandal involving forged Basquiat paintings. De Groft asserts that the museum’s board chairwoman and lawyers had approved the exhibit despite FBI investigations into the authenticity of the artworks. He alleges that the museum’s lawsuit is an attempt to scapegoat him, and is seeking over $50,000 in damages.
The controversy began when the FBI raided the museum in 2022 after suspicions arose about the authenticity of over two dozen Basquiat artworks displayed there. These artworks, supposedly discovered in a storage locker, were later revealed to be forgeries, with discrepancies like anachronistic FedEx typeface on a piece of cardboard used in one of the paintings. The revelation of these forgeries damaged the museum’s reputation and led to its probation by the American Alliance of Museums.
Adding to the scandal, former Los Angeles auctioneer Michael Barzman pleaded guilty to creating the fake artworks and falsely attributing them to Basquiat. The museum’s lawsuit against De Groft and others suggests a complex legal battle over the accountability and damages caused by the exhibition of these forged paintings.