A man has been arrested on an eleven million dollar fraud charge when he allegedly tried to sell a forged Jasper John’s bronze relief sculpture.
Brian Ramnarine, 58, offered a ‘nearly’ exact replica of John’s 1960 work ‘Flag’ but was arrested after an FBI investigation uncovered the deception.
The U.S. attorney’s office explained that the medal of honour winning American artist gave Mr Ramnarine the original mold from the 1960 sculpture to create a wax cast, to be used for a further casting of the work. The mold was never returned. Ramnarine is the owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, a company that works with a number of well known US artists.
Court documents state that years after the John’s commission, Ramnarine attempted to sell a fake bronze flag on the open market. It was created from the original mold but without the artist’s consent and with a forged signature. Ramnarine has now been indicted and charged with wire fraud and could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.
This is not the first time that the defendant has been in court, In 2002, Ramnarine was accused of trying to defraud two art buyers by selling them cast sculptures he claimed were by prominent postmodern artists. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said: ‘As alleged, Brian Ramnarine not only cast a fake sculpture in his foundry shop, but he also cast a wide net in his efforts to pawn it off on the art world as a multi-million dollar masterpiece.’
Jasper Johns born 1930 is an American painter and printmaker, forerunner of Pop art, who uses commonplace emblematic images such as flags or numbers as the starting-point for works of great richness and complexity. Born in Augusta, Georgia, and grew up in South Carolina. Studied at the University of South Carolina for about 1 1/2 years when he received his first formal training in art, then moved in 1949 to New York. Two years military service, part of the time in Japan. From 1952 lived in New York, supporting himself until 1958 mainly by working in a bookstore. Friendship from the mid 1950s with Rauschenberg, the dancer Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Made his first ‘Flag’, ‘Target’ and ‘Number’ paintings in 1954 and 1955 his first one-man exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1958 won him immediate recognition. Since 1960 has also made nearly 300 lithographs, etchings, screenprints, and embossed paper and lead reliefs. Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts since 1963 and Artistic Adviser to Merce Cunningham and Dance Company. Lives in New York.