Jasper Johns former assistant has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing artworks from Johns’ studio valued at nearly £9m. Meyer, 53, confessed to taking 22 pieces of work from John’s studio and selling them through a New York gallery. He had deceived the gallery owner into believing that the works were personal gifts from Johns, and provided fake documentation to assist in the provenance.
Jasper Johns, 84, is considered one of the most important painters of his generation. His American flag paintings are in many museums around the world and one sold last year, at auction for an astounding £23.7m. The artist was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom
Meyer was hired as an assistant age 21 and has been working for the artist for in 25 years. John’s had asked the assistant to destroy some of the work that he sold to a New York gallery. Other pieces had come from a plans chest that contained unfinished or working drawings, paintings on paper and prints.
Meyer pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and confessed to moving artworks from the studio to an art gallery in Manhattan between 2006 and 2012. “I took for granted and betrayed someone who will forever have great meaning in my life. For that, I have profound remorse,” Meyer told the courtroom. “I am truly devastated that I destroyed the close relationship that I had with the man who was my mentor, employer and friend,” he said in court in New York. Meyer was also ordered to repay £8.9m to Johns and other named parties.
The assistant had earned $4m (£2.6m) from selling the artworks and was ordered to return the amount made from the sales and to pay $13.5m (£8.9m) to compensate the artist and four anonymous buyers. He also returned 41 artworks that were unknown to the investigating team.