The Least Creative Art Heist Ever

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 15 2013 6:10 PM

How Not to Steal Precious Works of Art From Your World-Famous Boss

161616655
A man looks at Field Painting by Jasper Johns at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Art heists are supposed to be daring.  They are supposed to be global capers where robbers dressed in all black, speak an exotic, but non-specific form of accented English, and race Audis through the streets of Europe. This is what movies are made of–mystery and glamour.

The case of James Meyer was not one of those. His art heist had all of the artistry of an accountant cooking the books.

Advertisement

Meyer was indicted today for the theft of 22 works of art by pop artist Jasper Johns. Johns was also Meyer’s boss, whom he worked for as an assistant for 25 years.  An artist himself, Meyer "answered the artist’s phone, stretched his canvases, bought his paintbrushes and even drew lines on his canvases," according to the New York Times

In 2006, however, Meyer began swiping his boss’s works from his Connecticut studio and over the next six years stole almost two dozens pieces, smuggling them to a New York gallery to put them on the open market.

Here’s an NBC News account of how he did it:

The pilfered work included some pieces that Johns had not even completed, officials said. He had not given permission for any of them to be sold. But to make it seem as though he had, Meyer allegedly created fake inventory numbers for the stolen pieces and forged pages in a loose-leaf binder that served as a register of all of Johns' artwork, even going so far as to photograph the pages and give them to prospective buyers.

Loose-leaf binders? The Thomas Crown Affair this was not. Meyer was able to pocket more $3 million from the sales, after splitting the proceeds with the gallery. To cover his tracks, the pieces were sold with the agreement that the buyer would not exhibit, loan or resell the works for at least eight years, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.