Jasper Johns, an American artist known for his printmaking and Pop Art, is allegedly the victim of a multi-million dollar theft at the hands of his assistant, James Meyer.
Meyer, who has worked for Johns for almost thirty years, is accused of taking several unfinished pieces of Johns' art and selling them to a New York Gallery for $6.5 million, $3.4 million of which went to Meyer after he struck a deal by saying the works were gifted to him. Meyer told Gallery owners and the buyers that the pieces would be included in a compendium of Johns' official work, and forged documents stating as much.
“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.
Meyer is now free on $250,000 bail but has been ordered to stay away from Johns, who has not commented on the theft. Charges include one count of wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carry a maximum of 20 years jail time.
Johns was a mentor to Meyer, who is also an artist, and the two formed a close bond over the years. Meyer spoke about their relationship in an interview with Matthew Rose.
"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."
Image: Map, by Jasper Johns. Wikipedia