Jasper Johns, a well-known American painter, has reached an agreement with an African student after he included a sketch the student produced in one of his works without his permission. When Johns, possibly the most prominent living American artist, visited an orthopedic surgeon named Alexander M Clark Jr in Sharon, Connecticut in 2019, he came across Jéan-Marc Togodgue’s drawing.
Togodgue, a Cameroonian who moved to the United States four years ago, is an athlete who attends Salisbury School in Connecticut, an all-boys boarding school. While attending school in the United States, he is hosted by Rita Delgado and Jeff Ruskin. According to artnet, Togodgue loves to sketch, so after he tore a ligament in his knee playing soccer in 2017, he depicted the inner workings of the knee based on an image he discovered on the internet. After Dr. Clark had treated him, he gave him the sketch. Dr. Clark pinned the drawing to the wall of his clinic.
When Johns saw Togodgue’s artwork hanging in Dr. Clark’s office, he was enthralled. His works routinely sell for tens of millions of dollars. According to the Daily Mail, he replicated it to incorporate in one of his most recent paintings, Slice, which has Togodgue’s signature in the bottom right corner.
In April of this year, Johns wrote to Togodgue to inform him of his actions. “I should have asked you then if you mind my using it,” the 91-year-old artist wrote, “but I wasn’t convinced that my idea would ever materialize.” “I’d like you to like the concept, and I hope you’ll come to my studio to see what I’ve created.”
Togodgue, who had never heard of Johns before, visited Johns’ studio in May to see the work. He posed for a photo with the item, clearly ecstatic. When the father of Togodgue’s close friend, famed artist Brendan O’Connell, learned of what had happened, he wrote Johns a strongly worded letter accusing him of intellectual property theft.
According to Artnet, “the wealthiest and most recognized Titan in the art world seizing the personal drawing of an African ingenue” was improper, especially in the age of Black Lives Matter.
He also requested Johns to establish a foundation to help Togodgue and other talented Cameroonian athletes and artists. According to Conley Rollins, an informal spokesman for Johns, Johns had previously been thinking about what he could do for Togodgue, including paying for his college education, but the kid and his host family were unaware of his plans.
Lawyers quickly became engaged, debating what constitutes a fair use of copyrightable material in fine art. At the end of the day, in August, Johns and Togodgue signed an undisclosed licensing agreement.
“I was glad and relieved that it was finally settled,” Ruskin stated, “although Rita and I believe it might have been settled sooner and the attorneys and forceful letters would not have been necessary.”
The sculpture is currently on display at the Whitney as part of “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror.” Matthew Marks Gallery in New York, the artist’s dealer, is offering it for sale. According to Artnet, the earnings will go to Johns’ foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Togodgue and his host parents had also been to the Whitney, where they saw Slice in the galleries. The Cameroonian is now thinking about going to college to study art.