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I thought about putting this in the RIP thread.

Robert Indiana, a Pop artist best known for his iconic “LOVE” sculptures, has died at 89.
Robert Indiana with his 'LOVE' sculpture in Central Park, New York City in 1971. Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.
Robert Indiana with his 'LOVE' sculpture in Central Park, New York City in 1971. Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.

Indiana was an integral figure in the development of Pop Art, drawing inspiration from the signs found on America’s highways to create his signature style. The subject of a sweeping Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective in 2013, Indiana is best known for a series of works that riff on the word “love”—always presented with the first two letters stacked upon the last two, with the letter “O” tilted to the right. The sculptures themselves have become icons around the world, transcending Indiana’s personal fame. A postage stamp featuring the work, first released for Valentine’s Day in 1973, is one of the most popular ever produced, with more than 330 million of them released into circulation, according to the artist’s obituary in the New York Times. Public sculptures that Indiana made of the design consistently draw tourists to 55th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Plaza, more commonly known as Love Park.

But the artist grew frustrated with the public’s fixation on one aspect of his sprawling practice, which was just as often acerbic and political as it was sunny. The original version of the Love design featured a very different four letter word. He retreated from the Manhattan artists scene in which he was a fixture—he shared a studio with Cy Twombly, lived near Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and was for a time a lover of Ellsworth Kelly—and went to live in a remote part of Maine. And while he continued to make work, old friends and associates say he was increasingly difficult to reach. His Chelsea dealer, Paul Kasmin, told the Times that he had given up sending gifts to the artist because of the complete lack of response. Whether Indiana was entirely responsible for work produced towards the end of his life is the focus of a lawsuit filed by the Morgan Foundation, which holds the rights to some of Indiana’s creations, just days before the artist’s death.

He died on the island of Vinalhaven, his remote home of many years, and the cause of death, as reported by his lawyer, was respiratory failure.

Nate Freeman
Today at 10:50 am, via
The New York Times
A contentious legal fight is looming over control of Robert Indiana’s estate.
Just days before the famed Pop Art icon died, the Morgan Art Foundation filed a lawsuit alleging that art publisher Michael McKenzie and Jamie Thomas—described in the suit as a “fisherman from Maine with no art expertise” who was granted power of attorney by Indiana in 2016—conspired to isolate the artist and sell millions of dollars in art attributed to Indiana but which were essentially forgeries. Now, as the New York Times notes, “the dispute is likely to broaden now into questions of who controls Mr. Indiana’s legacy and estate.”

The Morgan Foundation, which holds exclusive rights over several important works by Indiana, claimed in its 53-page complaint that the actions of Thomas and McKenzie, as well as the latter’s publishing business, American Image Art, are damaging the artist’s market, imperiling the work done by Indiana’s longtime agent Simon Salama-Caro, who spent years rebuilding the artist’s market but found himself increasingly unable to meet with Indiana in person.

According to the suit, there are several works attributed to Indiana that violate the Morgan Foundation’s exclusive control over the artist’s output—including, among other work, numerous prints and variations on the artist’s famous LOVE sculpture, including the version reading “HOPE,” which garnered attention during President Obama’s campaign in 2008. The suit alleges that Indiana told Salama-Caro and others that “McKenzie forced him into approving HOPE through emotional abuse and intimidation.

The Times also relays a separate incident recounted in the complaint:

In 2014, Mr. Salama-Caro’s son, Marc, surreptitiously filmed Mr. Indiana during a rare visit to his home and asked the artist about Mr. McKenzie and the proliferation of new works carrying his name.
“Help me,” Mr. Indiana says on the video clip. “How does one restrain Michael? He’s beyond me. He’s mischievous.”
Mr. McKenzie said Mr. Indiana was just making the point that Mr. McKenzie is always bombarding him with new ideas.
McKenzie vehemently denies the Morgan Foundation’s other allegations as well, telling the New York Times that Indiana’s ill health and his own wishes were what kept visitors away, and that the artist wholly conceived of and authored all the work attributed to him.

Isaac Kaplan
Today at 1:48 pm, via
The New York Times