Sounding a bit like an alchemist’s spell gone awry, a New York foundry owner attempted to mix wax, bronze, and an American flag in his crucible hoping to produce $11 million dollars. Instead he received an arrest warrant and a possible 20 years behind bars.
In 1990, Brian Ramnarine the owner of owner of Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City was given a mold by Jasper Johns to create a wax cast of his 1960s sculpture. Ramnarine created the cast, but never returned the mold. After almost twenty years, Ramnarine made another cast and produced a new sculpture that he attempted to pass off as an original Johns. Artlyst has reported,
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.’
Ramnarine was nabbed after an unnamed auction house and a few private dealers grew suspicious and alerted authorities. One of the major flaws in Ramnarine’s plan is that he claimed the sculpture was a gift from Johns and Johns is still alive! It is not certain whether Johns played a role in uncovering Ramnarine’s ill founded plan, however it is certainly possible.