Lot 242
  • 242

Robert Indiana

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Robert Indiana
  • The Erred Nonagon
  • signed, inscribed, stenciled with the date 1962 and dedicated for John on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 61 by 55.8cm.; 24 by 22in.


John Kloss, gift of the artist in 1962
Private Collection (by descent)
Sale: Christie's, New York, Contemporary Art, 15 May 2003, Lot 130
Private Collection, United States
Sale: Christie's, New York, Contemporary Art, 12 May 2010, Lot 186
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly brighter in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is evidence of light wear and handling to the extreme outer edges and corner tips. Extremely close inspection reveals two minute and unobtrusive fly spots isolated in the white pigment. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Brilliantly capturing Robert Indiana’s fascination with signs, as well as his unique and style-defying visual language, The Erred Nonagon is an early and compelling work from the artist’s seminal career. As in all his iconic works, the painting blends his interest in the seemingly uncomplicated vernacular language of advertising, with the radical aesthetic of hard-edge painting and an interest in language and signification.

Indiana first started to experiment with signs after discovering the brass stencils of Nineteenth Century maritime companies in his studio in New York. These found objects awakened his profound interest in typographical designs, which he would continue to explore throughout his career. Unlike many other artists who were interested in the complexities of language, Indiana’s work was always intimately connected to the typically American sign culture that was omnipresent in the landscape of its cities. Emphasising its importance in American urban culture, the artist explained; “in Europe trees grow everywhere; in America signs grow like trees; signs are more common than trees” (Robert Indiana quoted in: Joachim Pissarro et al. Robert Indiana, New York 2006, p. 59). The artist’s extensive oeuvre of sign paintings could almost be considered as a signscape; representing the American cities through their most idiosyncratic characteristics.

Indiana’s engagement with this most American of subjects is perfectly captured in The Erred Nonagon, one of a series of paintings based on the relationships between numbers and their corresponding polygons. In each of these paintings, Indiana has juxtaposed his iconic numbers in the Clarendon font (historically used for traffic signs in the United States) with their corresponding multi-sided shapes. As the title of the present work already suggests, however, the Erred Nonagon does not actually depict a nonagon, but the number 9 on top of a hexagon (a six-sided polygon). Exposing the complex relationships between art and language - and perhaps as a clever play on the fact that when rotated 180 degrees, the painting would show a 6 on top of a hexagon – Indiana’s painting characteristically hides its complex subject behind a misleadingly simple façade. This makes The Erred Nonagon not only an instantly recognisable work from one of America’s most influential artists, but also an intriguing exploration in which subject, form and their relationships are scrutinised.