Orlando Museum of Art’s Interim Direct Quits Amid Basquiat Fallout
The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) has announced that Luder Whitlock is departing as the institution’s interim director. According to the Orlando Weekly, Whitlock’s exit comes just a week after the museum announced he had accepted the role; Artnews estimates that he lasted less than two months on the job. “The board of trustees of the Orlando Museum of Art has accepted the resignation of interim director Luder Whitlock,” acknowledged the OMA in a statement, adding, “Dr. Whitlock’s availability as a resource and guide to the museum family has been very much appreciated.”
Whitlock had earlier filled in as interim director in March 2020, that time sticking around until January 2021. He stepped in again earlier this summer to fill the shoes of disgraced director Aaron de Groft following the latter’s dismissal over a scandal that saw the museum raided by the FBI’s Art Criime Team over possibly forged Basquiat artworks. The June 24 raid, which took place during the museum’s open hours, was effected after officials received information that at least one and possibly all of the twenty-five paintings in the OMA exhibition“Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” were forged. All on reclaimed cardboard, the works were said by De Groft and the paintings’ owners to have been made around 1982 and placed in storage, being “rediscovered” in 2012. Raising suspicion in particular was a work made on a flattened box fragment bearing the phrase “Align top of FedEx Shipping Label here” in a typeface alleged to not have come into use until 1994—six years after Basquiat’s death. De Groft briefly remained in his post following the raid but was fired after it was revealed that he had via email threatened to blackmail a Basquiat expert whom he had hired to authenticate the paintings.
The OMA has said that it is assembling a board committee and hiring an independent recruiting firm to search for its next director.