Brian Ramnarine’s foundry in Long Island City was so well-known among artists for its excellent work that Jasper Johns entrusted the owner in 1990 to make a wax cast of the mold for his famous 1960 metallic collage “Flag.” On Thursday, Mr. Ramnarine, 58, was indicted on charges he used Mr. Johns’s mold to surreptitiously make a bronze sculpture that he attributed to Mr. Johns and tried to sell for $11 million, according to the United States attorney in Manhattan.
Mr. Ramnarine had been convicted 10 years ago on state charges that he made unauthorized copies of sculptures and sold them as originals. The federal prosecutors in this case have accused him of forging documents to create a false provenance for his bronze flag, saying that Mr. Johns had given him the sculpture as a gift in 1989.
When Mr. Johns sent the mold of his 1960 “Flag” to Mr. Ramnarine’s foundry, Empire Bronze, years ago, he had asked that a wax mold of it be made. Mr. Ramnarine delivered the wax mold, but held onto Mr. Johns’s original mold. Without Mr. Johns’s knowledge or authorization, he manufactured a 19.5-inch by 17-inch bronze flag, dated it 1989 and forged Mr. Johns’s signature, the federal complaint says.
In 2010 Mr. Ramnarine tried to sell his bronze flag, even inviting one collector to view the supposed masterpiece at a storage facility.
Mr. Ramnarine, who was arrested Thursday morning, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted. He could not be reached for comment.