Lot 50
  • 50

Robert Indiana

600,000 - 800,000 USD
1,685,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Robert Indiana
  • LOVE (Red/Blue)
  • stamped with the artist's signature, number AP 1/4 and date 1966 - 1998 on the lower left interior edge of the "E"
  • polychrome aluminum


Galerij Guy Pieters NV, Knokke
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2005

Catalogue Note

Robert Indiana’s LOVE is an icon of Twentieth Century art history: instantly recognisable, the work stands proudly as a form of collective signifier, symbolising positivity and goodwill at a universal level. Created in its first sculptural iteration in 1966, versions of LOVE now form part of the collections of major international institutions, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art, and have been displayed in prominent public spaces such as Sixth Avenue in New York and the John F. Kennedy Plaza in Philadelphia. In addition, a major retrospective of Indiana's work opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York this past September 2013 and closed in January. Despite the immutable solidity of the metal which anchors LOVE firmly to the ground, the ‘spiritual’ element of the work was of immense importance to Indiana: “Know that the LOVE I speak of is spiritual” (the artist cited in: Joachim Pissarro, ‘Signs Into Art,’ in Simon Salama-Caro et. al., Robert Indiana, New York 2006, p. 72).

Indiana has been fascinated by the potential of ‘signs’ throughout his career and his LOVE sculptures and similar word pieces can be viewed as a dialogue with semantic possibilities. His earliest works were inspired by commercial signage, and the LOVE series is arguably a direct heir of these first paintings and sculptures. Indiana’s realisation of the graphic potential of the sign invites associations with the work of the West Coast Pop artists, in particular that of Ed Ruscha, whose 1960s paintings were inspired by commercial and road signage. Yet it was Indiana who first elevated the word to the level of pure art object, as Carl J. Weinhardt argues: “When [Indiana] carried some of the words (and eventually the numerals) that occupied him as a painter (LOVE, ART) into the sculptural dimension, he became literally a wordsmith, fashioning the logos in metal” (Theresa Brakely, Ed., Robert Indiana, New York 1990, pp. 9-10). Divorced from their original lexicographical context, the characters that form Indiana’s LOVE take on qualities independent of their meaning, with the combination of sinuous curves and sharp lines, combined with the playfully tilting circular form of the 'O', creating an object that exudes a sense of exquisite grace despite its solidity.

When recalling the birth of the LOVE series, the artist referenced memories of his childhood in Indiana, the state whose name he adopted over that of his birth in 1958. Recollections of youthful church attendance provided a crucial spark of inspiration: "The reason I became so involved in [it] is that it is so much a part of the peculiar American environment, particularly in my own background, which was Christian Scientist. ‘God is Love’ is spelled out in every church" (the artist cited in: Ibid., p.154). Indeed, the first appearance of the LOVE theme within Indiana’s oeuvre, a work entitled Love is God from 1964, neatly inverted the message projected from the religious signboards that had made such an impression on the young artist. The eponymous quadrilateral LOVE motif emerged within Indiana’s work shortly afterwards, and rapidly became an emblem of an era which peaked with the so called ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967. Whilst LOVE appeared to represent the cultural zeitgeist of the 1960s in its proclamation of international benevolence, the work remains immensely powerful in impact today: a timeless symbol of a movingly universal ideal.