Man Says He Helped Make Fake Basquiats, Artist John Olsen Dies at 95, and More: Morning Links for April 12, 2023

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The Headlines

A BREAK IN THE CASE. Last June, the FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art, taking 25 paintings said to be previously unknown Jean-Michel Basquiats, an attribution disputed by many experts. The OMA’s director was soon ousted. Now federal prosecutors say that a Los Angeles man has admitted to helping create and sell the paintings, per the New York TimesMichael Barzman, an auctioneer, will plead guilty to making false statements to investigators when he initially claimed to know nothing about the allegedly ersatz artworks. Court docs say that Barzman worked with an unnamed individual, who spent five to 30 minutes making each work. His lawyer told the Courthouse News Service that his client did it because he “was drowning in medical debt.” One of the current owners of the works, attorney Pierce O’Donnell, told the Times that he still believes the paintings are genuine, calling Barzman “a proven unreliable person.”

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Signs for the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit outside the Orlando Museum of Art, on Friday, March 25, 2022.

CARL FISCHER, the self-taught photographer who shot many of Esquire magazine’s instantly iconic (and frequently controversial) covers in the 1960s and ‘70s, died last Friday at the age of 98Neil Genzlinger reports in the New York Times. Working with the art director George Lois, who was credited with the concepts, Fischer used an array of techniques to portray public figures in unusual circumstances, like the boxer and activist Muhammad Ali stuck with arrows and the artist Andy Warhol sinking into a huge can of Campbell’s soup. He made the latter by taking the Pop star’s portrait and pasting it into an image that he made of a marble falling into a normal-size can of tomato soup.

The Digest

Australian artist John Olsen, who won fame for his vibrant, abstracted landscape paintings, and who took home his nation’s prestigious Archibald prize in 2005 for a self-portrait, died on Tuesday at 95. “Painting was our father’s life, and he was painting right up to the last,” his children said in a statement. [The Guardian]

Italy is pursuing legislation that would impose a minimum fine of €10,000 (about $10,900) for vandalizing important cultural sites. That figure could climb to €60,000 ($66,000) in some cases. The proposal comes as climate activists have been targeting monuments and artworks in protests throughout Europe. [The Associated Press]

Staffers at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels have cosigned a letter to the Belgian government complaining of a toxic workplace marked by unequal treatment and a lack of “equity and basic justice.” They claim that their “leaders turn a deaf ear while we survive in a general malaise.” [The Brussels Times]

Officials are exploring a plan to stage miniature biennales around the Indian state of Kerala, its minister for tourism revealed at the closing ceremony for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale[The Hindu]

A wildfire in Gangneung, on the east cost of South Korea, damaged heritage sites, including the Sangyeongjeong pavilion that dates to 1859 and parts of the Inwolsa temple. [The Korea Herald]

Archaeologists at the Mayan site of Chichen Itza on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula have found an ancient scoreboard that was used in a soccer-like game. It measures about a foot across, weighs a formidable 88 pounds, and is believed to date to around 800 to 900. [Reuters]

The Kicker

A SURPRISE COMMISSION. The United States Postal Service recently released the 46th stamp in its Black Heritage series, a vivid portrait of the late novelist Ernest J. Gaines. The man responsible for that image is artist Robert Peterson, who is based in Lawton, Oklahoma, and while he has been painting seriously for about a decade, he had some doubts when the USPS first reached out to him. “I thought it was fake, to be honest,” Peterson told KFDX. “I thought I was being scammed or Punk’d or something like that.” Next year, he will have a solo show at the Wichita Art Museum in Kansas. His stamps can be purchased online, at post offices across the country. [KFDX]

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