Late last week the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in conjunction with the FBI announced the unsealing of an indictment against James Meyer, a former studio assistant to celebrated American artist, Jasper Johns. Meyer, who worked for Johns for over 25 years, is accused of stealing 22 works from Johns’ studio between 2006 and 2012 and selling them through a gallery in Manhattan. Johns is presently 83 years old and maintains a studio in Sharon, Connecticut.
Meyer was tasked with maintaining a studio file drawer containing unfinished pieces that Johns had not authorized for sale, and these were among the works Meyer is accused of removing and selling in secret. Meyer allegedly engaged in a serial scheme to deceive his employer, the gallery, and prospective buyers, by claiming that the pieces had been gifts from Johns and by mandating in the terms of the sales that the pieces remain private for eight years. Meyer is also accused of furthering this scheme by creating fictitious inventory numbers and adding the works to a ledger of Johns’ registered pieces, to give the impression that the pieces were finished and authorized to be sold by Johns.
According to the indictment, the pieces sold for $6.5 million, and Meyer directly received $3.4 million. Meyer, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, is charged with interstate transport of stolen property and wire fraud.