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Orlando Museum of Art Gets a Gift With Strings and Tries to Cut Them

Any day that a museum is handed a seven-figure gift is a very good day. But for the Orlando Museum of Art, which recently received a $1.8 million bequest from the estate of Margaret Young, that gift couldn’t have come at a better time.

Last December, the museum’s executive director, Cathryn Mattson, had warned trustees and influential donors of “a severe financial crisis” with a projected deficit of nearly $1 million in the museum’s $4 million budget by the end of June 2024.

The deficit was fallout from what a former museum trustee, Winifred Sharp, called “the Basquiat fiasco”: a 2022 exhibition of paintings said to have been created by the art-world legend Jean-Michel Basquiat, but which the F.B.I. later seized as fakes. A Los Angeles auctioneer subsequently admitted to the F.B.I. that he and an associate had forged the paintings, some in as little as five minutes.

The $1.8 million bequest could go a long way toward easing the museum’s financial woes. But Ms. Young, who was an artist herself, said her bequest could only be used to buy artwork for the museum’s permanent collection, not for operating expenses like employee salaries or the museum’s growing legal bills.

So now, as is sometimes done by nonprofits, the museum has asked a court to modify Ms. Young’s restrictions so the money can be spent more broadly.

Aaron DeGroft, the former director of the museum, reviews one of the artworks later deemed to be forgeries by the F.B.I.Credit…Melanie Metz for The New York Times

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