The Orlando Museum of Art Faces Financial Distress

The Orlando Museum of Art in Florida Could Have a $835,000 Shortfall for the Budget Year 2024 After Fake Basquiats Scandal.

Jan 18, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Orlando Museum of Art
Via the museum.


The Orlando Museum of Art faces financial distress after the scandal around fake Basquiat pieces. Overall, the museum could have a deficit of $835,000 for this year. The problems started after the FBI raided the institution and confiscated artwork allegedly created by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Cathryn Mattson, the museum’s executive director, revealed the extent of the financial situation during a staff gathering in December.


The Orlando Museum of Art Used All Its Credit Lines

Via the museum.


This recording features Mattson declaring, “We are in a severe financial crisis.” In April 2023, she served as interim director, and in December, she received permanent status. During the December meeting, Mattson stated that the institution hired crisis management specialists for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The museum also hired a legal team to deal with the FBI investigation.


There is also a pending lawsuit directed at former director Aaron De Groft. “Within a year’s time, we had a 25 percent increase in unbudgeted expenses”, Mattson said, adding that the museum’s reserves were “nearing exhaustion level”. She also explained how the institution used up all of its credit lines an loans.


Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.


“We do not have the funds readily at hand to cover that”,she said, according to the Times. “I mean, that is the truth of the matter”. According to her projections, the museum might have a $835,000 deficit in the fiscal year 2024. The museum’s trustees intervened and increased their donations in the meantime to support the institution through its difficulties.

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Petition Calling for Resignations

Untitled by Jean Michel-Basquiat, 1982, via artnet


The public and some inside the museum criticised it for its absence of openness during the crisis. A past officer of the museum’s purchasing trust board has started a petition calling for Mattson’s and the board of trustees’ resignations. Also, the petition seeks the disclosure of conclusions following the Basquiat controversy from an internal task force probe. The Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board issued a blistering op-ed on January 11.


“This editorial board has echoed the call for transparency over the 18 months that have passed since the FBI swooped in and carried away the 25 Basquiats alleged to be fake”, the Orlando Sentinel said in its op-ed. The opinion piece also mentioned that although there aren’t many specifics, a large number of donors are leaving the organisation.


Glenn by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1985, via Smithsonian Magazine


Normally, such details could be glimpsed from financial statements that museums operating as nonprofits are required to file each year. However, the most recent form on the museum’s website was filed in the spring of 2023 for the 2022 fiscal year, which ended as the museum’s troubles began.












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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.