In the art news this week, it was reported that celebrated artist Jasper Johns’ longtime assistant James Meyer was sentenced to 18 months of prison by a Manhattan Federal Judge on Wednesday for stealing and profiting from the sale of 37 of Johns’ art works in excess of $4 million. Meyer was also ordered to pay $13.4 million in restitution as well as forfeit nearly $4 million to the government.
The remorseful assistant had admitted to taking 83 art works from Johns’ file drawer at the artist’s art studio in Connecticut during the period from September 2006 to February 2012. Meyer had taken more than half of the art works to a Manhattan art gallery to sell without Johns’ knowledge, according to prosecutors. The art works had yet to be completed by Johns, however, Meyer represented to the gallery owner that they were “finished works” and “gifts” from the artist. Meyer even went so far as to allegedly create fictitious inventory numbers to give the appearance that the stolen art works were finished works.
The Manhattan art gallery (unidentified by prosecutors) ended up selling 37 of the paintings for nearly $10 million from which Meyer profited in excess of $4 million for his cut. Under a plea agreement, Meyer had faced 37 to 46 months in prison, but because the Federal Judge believed Meyer to be a “good” person who was genuinely remorseful, Meyer was given a break with the 18-month sentence.
The former trusted assistant had worked for Johns for nearly 30 years from 1985 until his arrest in 2013.