Robert Indiana - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips
  • A cardinal symbol of Pop art, LOVE (Gold Faces Red Sides) is a quintessential example of Robert Indiana’s ability to use text and language to transcend conventional distinctions between Minimalism, Pop art, and modernism. Indiana orientates the four letters that constitute the word over a strict cruciform axis, the gridding of which he only jeopardizes with the playful energy emitted from the tilted “O”. Radiating in carmine and gold, LOVE serves as an homage to the artist’s father who worked at a Phillips 66 gas station in the Midwestern United States during the Great Depression: at once deeply personal and emblematic of the American experience, the work echoes the red logo set against a gold Indiana sunset. Indiana's LOVE has achieved global recognition since its conception in 1966, and versions of the work have been installed in public and private collections across the United States as well as in Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, and Israel. Ascribed to the sculpture’s vibrant palette and instantaneous impact, LOVE has become an iconic Pop motif that takes its place in the pantheon of imagery alongside Andy Warhol’s soup cans and Roy Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots.


    Robert Indiana in North Haven, Connecticut, 1970. Photographed by Tom Rummler, Artwork © 2021 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Robert Indiana in North Haven, Connecticut, 1970. Photographed by Tom Rummler, Artwork © 2021 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    By the mid-1960s, the New York art world was experiencing an unprecedented change of artistic tides as Minimalism was rapidly gaining popularity and the first wave of Pop art was nearing the end of its reign. Indiana championed the duality that characterized the climate with the conception of LOVE, marrying the two movements in the visual immediacy of the work, which is reminiscent of the bold, arresting quality of billboards and advertisements. The word “love” appears frequently within his oeuvre, as evidenced by the emergence of its iconography in a series of poems he composed in 1958 before its appearance in his seminal paintings Four Star Love, 1961, Portland Museum of Art, Maine and Love is God, 1964. It was these explorations in two-dimension that laid the groundwork for Indiana to propel the composition into the third dimension: “I like to work on a square canvas, since the way I put the letters down, it is the most economical, the most dynamic way to put four letters on a square canvas. This is how the LOVE came about…”i By transposing the abstract concept of “love” into a tangible three-dimensional object that can be seen and touched, Indiana has engaged with Conceptualism, Pop, and Minimalism.


    LOVE is also denotative of Indiana’s investigation of modernist themes through a Pop lens. According to the artist, the “'LOVE Sculpture' is the culmination of ten years of work based on the original premise that the word is an appropriated and usable element of art, just as Picasso and the Cubists made use of it at the beginning of the century, which evolved inevitably, in both my “LOVE” paintings and sculpture, into the concept that the word is also a fit and viable subject for art.”ii The sculpture can be interpreted as a conceptual allusion to the manipulation of wordplay at the hands of the Dadaists and Cubists. Just as the “JOU” in Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning, 1911-1912 may be a witty pun on the French word “jouer” (to play) and the popular Parisian newspaper Le Journal, the word “love” implies many connotations, including ones that are amorous, platonic, spiritual, and cultural. As such, LOVE operates not only within the realm of Pop art, but as a broader reflection on the preoccupation with language and word play in modern art.

    "LOVE is capable of holding meaning in a variety of histories."
    —Aaron Ott

    Perhaps what makes the work so evocative is its perennial ability to remain timeless. The imagery was already identified as emblematic of the Pop movement when The Museum of Modern Art in New York selected the image for their annual Christmas card in 1965. As Aaron Ott noted, “LOVE is capable of holding meaning in a variety of histories. It was created in the shadow of hippie culture but powerful enough to escape that orbit in order to resonate in numerous contemporary and personalized contexts.”iii LOVE crystallizes many of the major themes that Robert Indiana has investigated throughout his career, and one of the most fascinating aspects of this work is its ability to remain timeless and contemporary at the same time. More than 50 years has passed since its conception, and it is clear that having served as inspiration whether directly or indirectly to a younger generation of artists, Indiana’s LOVE persists in a profound manner.


    i Robert Indiana, quoted in Barbarelee Diamonstein, Inside New York’s Art World, New York, 1979, pp. 151-153.

    ii Robert Indiana, Art New: New York, vol. 1, no. 3, March 1969, n.p.

    iii Aaron Ott, Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2018, p. 87.

    • Provenance

      Morgan Art Foundation Ltd., Geneva (acquired directly from the artist)
      Private Collection
      Opera Gallery, Paris (2007)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008


LOVE (Gold Faces Red Sides)

stamped with the artist's name, number and date "© 1966–2002 R INDIANA 8/8" and the foundry mark on the lower interior edge of the E
polychromed aluminum
17 5/8 x 17 7/8 x 9 in. (44.8 x 45.4 x 22.9 cm)
Conceived in 1966 and executed in 2002, this work is number 8 from an edition of 8.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $315,000

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021