We first told you HERE in May 2021 that the Orlando Museum of Art was looking to open a second location in downtown Orlando in a planned 33-story mixed-use tower led by Summa Development Group at 350 E. Pine Street [GMap]. But it seems things have changed.
According to a spokesperson at the museum, they have pulled out of the project. The new 30,000 SF museum space would have occupied two stories of the new building and a rooftop sculpture garden on the ninth floor. Award-winning architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli had been secured for the designs and an opening date had been set for sometime in the 2024-25 season, just in time for the museum’s 100th anniversary.
Director of Marketing and Communications, Emilia Bourmas-Fry, told Bungalower that, “Our timing didn’t align and we’re looking for other opportunities for a downtown expansion.”
Albert J. Socol, a managing member of Summa Development Group, told Bungalower that they had no comment on this story.
The news of the downtown campus delay falls on the same week that The New York Times dropped an expose questioning the veracity of 25 paintings currently on display at the museum that are attributed to painting icon Jean-Michel Basquiat; an exhibition that had been marketed as the first public viewing of his lost works.
Miami-based journalist Brett Sokol reports that he received a tip from someone connected to the museum that marks on the back of the cardboard one of the pieces had been painted on revealed that it could potentially be younger than originally expected, possibly dating it to a time after the artists’ death in 1988 and that the entire collection could be forged – casting a shadow over the exhibition and the museum.
Though it could be said that just because one painting could be questionable, that shouldn’t necessarily spoil the whole batch, yet London-based Daily Mail leaned into the drama and published a story entitled “Orlando Museum of Art is accused of unveiling 25 FAKE Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings.” And according to Orlando Weekly‘s editor-in-chief, Jessica Bryce Young, computers at the museum were seized by the FBI earlier this week, alluding to a larger investigation into the authenticity of the collection.
The paintings were said to have been discovered in a storage container owned by Hollywood screenwriter Thad Mumford, tucked away for three decades before being rediscovered in 2012 when Mumford lost the contents of the storage unit for failing to pay the bill. A painting from the collection, “Self Portrait with Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump,” sold at a small Arizona auction for between $40,000-$60,000 in 2015. In comparison, one of his authenticated paintings sold at Sotheby’s for $110.5 million in 2017. The lower price on the Mumford piece was because it had not been verified by the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which disbanded in 2012, and the description could only say “attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
In response to the allegations, the museum issued Bungalower the following statement:
“We recognize the challenges it may pose when new works appear after an artist’s estate authentication committee is dissolved. That is why we diligently undertook a very rigorous process of research and evaluation before opening this exhibit. The art has been fully authenticated by credible sources, including the person who led the Basquiat estate authentication committee; signed off by leading Basquiat historians, forensic professionals and handwriting experts. This is a regarded industry standard of evaluation and was followed intricately in our planning for this exhibit. We are confident the works are authentic and are proud to present them for the first time to the viewing public.”
Museum Director Aaron De Groft told Orlando Sentinel‘s Matt Palm in an interview earlier today that “Our job is not to authenticate art. Our job is to bring the best art to the people of Orlando and Orange County.”