Brian Ramnarine, who owns a foundry in Long Island City, was arrested yesterday for allegedly claiming that a sculpture was by Jasper Johns and selling it for $11 million. It appears that Johns himself gave Ramnarine the mold in 1990 to make a wax cast for his 1960 "Flag" sculpture, but investigators say Ramnarine never returned the mold to the legendary artist.
According to the U.S. Attorney's press release, in the spring of 2010, Ramnarine "began representing to various members of the art world that he owned a bronze sculpture, titled 'Flag,' that was an authorized Jasper Johns work of art created in 1989 (the “Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture”). In an effort to gauge interest in the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture, he showed it to a representative of an auction house who specialized in the sale of rare art, and to an art dealer." Ramnarine also, they say, tried to sell it directly to a collector.
After the art collector expressed doubts about the authenticity of the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture, RAMNARINE provided false and fraudulent documents and information in an effort to deceive the art collector into believing that the artwork was genuine. For example, RAMNARINE stated that the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture was a gift from Johns. To support that assertion, RAMNARINE provided an art broker with a letter dated August 23, 1989, purportedly from Johns, along with other documents that falsely and fraudulently reflected that the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture was a genuine Johns work of art, and that it was owned by RAMNARINE...
However, the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture was a fake. Johns never authorized its production nor did he transfer ownership to RAMNARINE. Instead, in or about 1990, against Johns’ earlier instructions and without authorization, RAMNARINE used the original Flag Mold provided by Johns to make the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture, dated it “1989,” and forged Johns’ signature on the back of the sculpture. RAMNARINE also falsely stated that he could arrange for a meeting between Johns and the art collector who was interested in purchasing the Purported 1989 Bronze Sculpture. However, RAMNARINE did not have an ongoing relationship with Johns and had no intention or ability to arrange for any such meeting.
Ramnarine, who was accused of something similar in 2002, was released on $250,000 bond. He claims the 2002 incident was a "setup" and that he doesn't have the Johns mold anymore, because it went missing when he was kicked out by a landlord.