The FBI seizes entire Basquiat exhibition because of a font

One of the Basquiat paintings in the collection
(Image credit: Melanie Metz for The New York Times)

With his wily paintings and social commentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat has become one of the most famous neo-expressionist artists. The late artist's work now sells for hundreds of millions and a small selection of pieces were supposed to be touring the world over the next few years.

But... the FBI's art crime team seized 25 paintings, painted on cardboard and ranging from 10 inches to 5ft from a recent Basquiat exhibition in the Orlando Museum of Art. And the thing that gave it away, you ask? The FedEx typeface on the cardboard (if you want to have a go at painting your own pieces, then check out our roundup of the best art supplies). 

The font that exposed the paintings as fake

I guess the moral of the story is know your typefaces before you forge artwork (Image credit: The New York Times)

According to The Art Newspaper, Aaron De Groft, the Director of the Orlando Museum, told the New York Times that the collection was from 1982 and was sold to screenwriter Thad Mumford. Mumford was apparently forced to auction the designs off in 2012 after being unable to pay for their storage. 

However, the plot hole in De Groft's story stems from the typography used on the FedEx box that Basquiat so famously used as canvases. While the paintings were supposedly created in 1982, it has since been confirmed by Lindon Leader, the artist who redesigned the FedEx font, that the typeface matches the designs he created in 1994 – six years after Basquiat's death. De Groft has since been removed from his post.

The Basquiat exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art

The exhibition was shut down six days before it was meant to end (Image credit: Orlando Museum)

While we wait for the confirmation on the actual authenticity of the paintings, why not have a go at creating your own neo-expressionist paintings? Check out our roundup of the best oil paints. Or if you're feeling inspired by all this font talk, you'll love our list of the best free fonts.

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Amelia Bamsey
Staff Writer

Amelia is Creative Bloq’s Staff Writer. After completing a degree in Popular Music and a Master’s in Song Writing, Amelia began designing posters, logos, album covers and websites for musicians. She now enjoys covering a range of topics on Creative Bloq, including posters, optical illusions, logos (she's a particular fan of logo Easter eggs), gaming and illustration. In her free time, she relishes in the likes of art (especially the Pre-Raphaelites), photography and literature. Amelia prides herself on her unorthodox creative methods, her Animal Crossing island and her extensive music library.