A longtime assistant to artist Jasper Johns was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with stealing Johns' artwork. According to federal prosecutors, James Meyer, who worked for Johns for 27 years, took at least 22 unfinished pieces of art from Johns' Connecticut workspace between September 2006 and February 2012, and sold them to a Manhattan art gallery for $6.5 million, $3.4 million of which went to Meyer.
“As alleged, James Meyer is the latest in a long line of thieves who sought to make millions through a fraud on the art world,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
To pull off the theft, Meyer allegedly forged documents making it appear as though he'd been gifted the artwork. And Meyer also stipulated that each buyer agree to not sell, loan, or publicly exhibit each piece of art for a period of at least eight years.
An excerpt of the indictment, via Daily Intelligencer:
In the construction of the painting itself, Jasper showed me how to paint out some things, to lose part of the work when making variations, and in altering the surface.
Most important, however, Jasper has taught me to think about what I'm making before I make it. I think for weeks at a time before I begin a series, and then I produce the series in short period of time.
Meyer was arraigned Wednesday in Hartford, Connecticut. He pleaded not guilty to charges of interstate transportation and wire fraud, and was released on $250,000 bond. If convicted, he faces of a maximum of 20 years in prison.
[Image via Getty]
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