Lot 54
  • 54

Robert Indiana

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
3,555,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Robert Indiana
  • The Great American LOVE (Love Wall)
  • stenciled with the artist's name, dated NEW YORK 1972 and inscribed 2 SPRING on the reverse of the 'E' canvas; numbered 1 of 4 in stencil on the reverse of each canvas
  • oil on canvas, in 4 parts


The Artist
Private Collection, New York
Rosenthal Fine Art Inc., Chicago
Christie’s, New York, November 8, 2005, Lot 70 
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, Galerie Denise René, Robert Indiana, November – December 1972, n.p., illustrated in color (in alternate configuration)
Paris, Galerie Denise René, Group Show, 1974
Virginia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Twelve American Painters, September - October 1974, pp. 38-39, illustrated in color (in alternate configuration) (as LOVE, The Louisiana Purchase Variation
Rockland, Maine, The William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum; and Waterville, Maine, The Colby College Museum of Art, Indiana’s Indianas: A 20 Year Retrospective of Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of Robert Indiana, July – December 1982, illustrated in color (as Love Wall), p. 22 (text) and p. xii, illustrated in color
Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The ‘POP ART’ Exhibition, October 1992 – January 1993, p. 143, no. 68, illustrated in color and p. 276, illustrated in color
New York, Marisa Del Re Gallery and O’Hara Gallery, The Popular Image: Pop Art in America, October - December 1995, illustrated in color on the front and back covers
Nice, Musée d’art moderne et art contemporain, Robert Indiana: Rétrospective 1958-1998, June – November 1998, p. 94, illustrated (with the artist in installation at Galerie Denise René, 1972), and p. 241, illustrated in color
Portland, Portland Museum of Art; and Marietta, Cobb Museum of Art, Love and the American Dream: The Art of Robert Indiana, June 1999 – January 2000, p. 105, no. 43 (text)
Milwaukee, Milwaukee Museum of Fine Art, Extended Loan, 2003 – 2004
New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery, COLOR, 2005


John Perreault, "Having a Word with the Painter," The Village Voice, December 7, 1972, p. 34 (text)
Joseph Masheck, "Reviews: Robert Indiana; Denise René Gallery," Artforum, February 1973, p. 81 (text)
"Robert Indiana: He's a Man of Many Words," The Republic, June 23, 1981, p. 8 (text)
Edgar Allen Beem, "Robert Indiana: At Home in Penobscot Bay," Downeast, August 1982, pp. 74-79 and p. 138  (text)
John Canaday, "Aesop Revised, or the Lick of the Orthopterae," The New York Times, December 3, 1972, p. D21 (text)
John Perreault, "Having a Word with the Painter," The Village Voice, December 7, 1972, p. 34 (text)
Douglas Crimp, "New York Letter," Art International, February 1973, p. 47 (text)
Lorraine Haacke, "A bright portrayal of the American scene," Dallas Times Herald, October 23, 1977, p. 1 (text)
Carl J. Weinhardt, Jr., Robert Indiana, New York, 1990, pp. 162-163, illustrated in color (in alternate configuration) and p. 196, illustrated in color (in installation at Galerie Denise René, 1972)
Gauville Hérve, "Indiana, Américain dans tous ses états," Libération, October 12, 1998 (text)
Simon Salama-Caro, Joachim Pissarro, John Wilmerding, and Robert Pincus-Witten, Robert Indiana, New York, 2006, p. 278, illustrated (with the artist in installation at Galerie Denise René, 1972)
Anna Saccani, LetterScapes: A Global Survey of Typographic Installations, London, 2013, p. 152 (text)

Catalogue Note

Instantly recognizable and universally appealing for its power as an immutable symbol of grace and goodwill, Robert Indiana’s The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) stands proudly as a monumental and superlative example from the artist’s iconic oeuvre. The Love motif first appeared in Indiana’s output in 1966, quickly achieving immense popularity amid the rise of hippie culture and the corresponding liberation of traditional social formalities. Following the ‘free love’ zeitgeist that characterized the 1960s and 1970s, Indiana’s Love endures as a timeless emblem of a universal concept, one that continues to inspire and delight. Indeed, Indiana’s variations on Love across mediums reside in public parks and permanent museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The present work was included in several important exhibitions and remained in Indiana’s private collection for over a decade, underscoring the deeply personal significance of this larger-than-life archetypal apotheosis. Marius B. Péladeau opens the exhibition catalogue for the 1982 exhibition Indiana’s Indianas, “Indiana, with considerable foresight, has kept from the market or repurchased examples of his paintings which he feels are crucial in illustrating his progressive development as an artist. Thus this exhibition becomes ‘Indiana’s Indianas,’ just as the 1966 exhibition in Paris was ‘Picasso’s Picasso’s.’ This admittedly selective but thoroughly personal examination of the artist’s career by the creator himself is, most amazingly, also extremely comprehensive in scope.” (Exh. Cat., Rockland, Maine, The William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum (and travelling), Indiana’s Indianas, 1982, p. x).

Born in Indiana, Robert Clark burst upon the New York art scene in 1954 and settled at 31 Coenties Slip in Manhattan, joining a small group of artists that included Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney and Jack Youngerman. These artists were bound by a commitment to form and the relationships between space, curves and edges in abstract shapes. Coenties Slip proved a fertile environment for these artists who found inspiration in the raw, industrial materials and commercial signage that were so prevalent in the area, and indeed the influence of signs is evident in The Great American LOVE (Love Wall). Although the letters are easily understood as spelling the word Love, there is a hard-edged and abstract beauty in the composition of the white serif letters asserting themselves against the flat, chromatic background of bright blue and vivid red. Four six-foot square panels of blue and red form an even grid that seduces and overwhelms the audience in its pure physical presence and scale. The strict 90 degree angles of L and E anchor the composition solidly in the upper left and lower right corner. V thrusts upward to meet the lower corner of L and sweep smoothly into E. The strict geometry of this work is interrupted by O, which cants outward in a note of jaunty discordance. Upon deeper visual engagement, the audience can relinquish its grasp on the legibility of the word, instead turning to the purity of the blue and red ‘negative spaces’ that resolve into elegant shapes in and of themselves. The tension between the ‘background’ or ‘foreground’ of startling color and precisely executed forms creates an endlessly engaging and dynamic visual experience.

When recalling the birth of the Love series, the artist referred to memories of his childhood in Indiana, the state whose name he adopted in 1958. His early church attendance provided a crucial source of inspiration: “The reason I became so involved in [it] is that it was 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.” (Robert Indiana quoted in Theresa Brakely, ed., Robert Indiana, New York, 1990, p. 154) Indeed, in the first appearance of the word Love within Indiana’s oeuvre - a painting entitled Love is God from 1964 - Indiana cleverly inverted the religious message that had made such a powerful impression on him as a young artist. Shortly thereafter, the quadrilateral Love motif emerged within Indiana’s work, rapidly becoming emblematic of the ‘Love Generation.’ The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) also reveals a Pop Art sensibility in its graphic impact and sign-like quality that recalls both New York artists such as Andy Warhol and West Coast artists like Ed Ruscha. The central agenda of the Pop Art phenomenon is brilliantly illustrated here by Indiana’s usage of industrial craftsmanship and razor sharp precision in order to configure an emblem that has become a sensational brand unto itself.

Of the incredible fame of this icon that has transcended cultures and languages, Indiana has said, “I had no idea LOVE would catch on the way it did. Oddly enough, I wasn’t thinking at all about anticipating the Love generation and hippies. It was a spiritual concept...It’s become the very theme of love itself.” (The artist quoted in Exh. Cat., Rockland, Maine, The William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum (and travelling), Indiana’s Indianas, 1982, p. 8). The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) is a lasting monument to the most iconic output of the artist, an enormous tribute to a timeless and universal ideal.