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The American contemporary artist, Jasper Johns, testified in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday, January 23, saying that he never authorized foundry owner, Brian Ramnarine, to make a bronze copy of his Sculptmetal painting, ‘Flag.’ Johns had given Ramnarine a mold of the work in 1990 with instructions to make a single wax cast mold.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Ramnarine, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, Queens, attempted to sell an unauthorized bronze sculpture of the painting in 2010. Johns stated in court that Ramnarine had never returned the original mold to him and that somebody later showed him a flag sculpture that he had never seen before, but he believed had been made from the mold in Ramnarine’s possession.

Ramnarine attempted to seek a buyer for the alleged Johns sculpture, telling interested parties that he was willing to sell the work for $11 million. Potential buyers were suspicious of Ramnarine as Johns had made only six ‘Flag’ sculptures and had kept several in his own possession (another is owned by the Art Institute of Chicago and another was given to President John F. Kennedy by the art dealer Leo Castelli). In an attempt to quell wariness, Ramnarine would provide interested parties with a letter said to be from Johns as well as a certificate of authenticity. Johns said he had nothing to do with either document.

Ramnarine has pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against him.        

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