The Orlando Museum of Art in Florida has named Cathryn Mattson as its new interim executive director and CEO, signaling a hopeful return to stability following the dramatic FBI raid of its Basquiat show last summer.
The Florida institution has fought to regain its credibility after a police investigation determined the dozens of paintings were forgeries and had been exhibited despite doubts to their authenticity. Only last week, a former auctioneer admitted to helping create and sell the works.
“I am honored to accept this position and look forward to working with the staff and board to continue building on the strong legacy of the Museum,” Mattson said in a statement shared by the OMA. “A major art museum is essential to a vibrant city, as it is a place where the community can come together, grow, create, and share experiences that inspire and bring joy. I am delighted to be able to serve this wonderful institution.”
Mattson joins the museum after a series of leadership shakeups. The former museum director, Aaron De Groft, was fired in June 2022 by the OMA board of trustees just days after the FBI raid. A FBI affidavit revealed that the works had been at the center of a nine-year-long investigation into their authenticity, and that the museum had been served a subpoena prior to the opening of the exhibition “Heroes & Monsters” in February 2022. Several former trustees later claimed that De Groft and the former board chair, Cynthia Brumback, withheld knowledge of the subpoena.
De Groft was replaced by interim director Luder Whitlock. However, Whitlock resigned after less than two months on the job, and two days after his departure, the board replaced Brumback as chair. In March of this year, the longtime chief curator of the Orlando Museum of Art, Hansen Mulford, quietly retired after 42 years without fanfare or even advance notice to staff, according to local press.
Since the FBI raid, the museum has launched several initiatives to reestablish its trust with the Orlando community. The board of trustees commissioned the Orlando-based Akerman law firm to investigate the Basquiat scandal and has been receiving recommendations based on the results of the probe for months.
In an interview this past September, current board president Mark Elliott told the Orlando Sentinel that the investigation’s findings would be made public, however to date, no information has been shared.