Robert Indiana - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, May 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "My goal is that LOVE should cover the world."
    —Robert Indiana 

    An iconic subject of both Robert Indiana’s body of work and the Pop art movement as a whole, the artist’s LOVE series has in effect become its own artistic phenomenon. These four letters arranged in a grid is “almost a universal signifier” and “has become a culturally owned image that no longer signifies its author,” said Susan Elizabeth in her biography on the artist.i Indiana's LOVE has achieved global recognition since its conception in 1966, and versions of the work have been installed in esteemed public and private collections across the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, and Israel. Conceived in 1966 and executed in 1999, LOVE (Violet Faces Red Sides) is a six-foot-tall example with a vibrant color combination of purple and crimson. Like the monumental sculpture which currently welcomes visitors to the artist’s first major exhibition in the United Kingdom in Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which opened earlier this year, LOVE (Violet Faces Red Sides) illustrates Indiana’s use of text-based imagery as a way to transcend the boundaries of Minimalism and Pop art, resulting in a universal symbol that has become timeless.  

    "Versions of the two-letters-over-two motif have appeared on paperweights, postage stamps and wallpaper – in every medium from solid gold to solid chocolate. It is an internationally recognized icon that still circulates in new versions today." 
    —Susan Elizabethii


    Robert Indiana with his LOVE sculpture in Central Park, New York City, 1971, Image: Jack Mitchell / Getty Images, Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    The Origin of Indiana’s LOVE


    For Indiana, the concept for the LOVE series originated from his childhood memories, particularly his frequent visits to a Christian Scientist church where the phrase “God is Love” was often preached. The original colors used in the first LOVE sculpture—red, green and blue—pay homage to the sign for Phillips 66, a gasoline station located in the Midwest where the artist’s father worked. Indiana remained fixated on the primary colors in the signage and chose to replicate them in the first official LOVE work—a commissioned Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1965. Even before this, however, the word “love” appeared frequently within Indiana’s oeuvre—first in a series of poems composed in 1958, and a few years later in his seminal paintings Four Star Love, 1961, Portland Museum of Art, and Maine and Love is God, 1964. In an interview about the connection between the 1958 poems and the LOVE series, Indiana stated “I am talking to you from a room where I am surrounded by my own love poetry. In it I speak of the actual configuration of the four letters and what else they might symbolize.”iii It was his explorations of the word in two-dimensional prints and paintings that laid the groundwork for Indiana to propel the block letters into the third dimension. By transposing the abstract concept of “love” into a tangible three-dimensional object, one that can be seen and touched, Indiana turned the Pop symbol into a conceptual one. He said, “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.”iv


    LOVE in a Contemporary Context 


    The immediate recognizability of Indiana’s LOVE is even more powerful in the age of new media and the incredible potential of image circulation. 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.”v LOVE (Violet Faces Red Sides) 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. On the occasion of Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s current exhibition, director Clare Lilly articulated just how timeless this art is: “I hope that this exhibition is one that lifts people and frankly reminds us all of the importance of love, the importance of community, and the importance of being together.”vi 


     i Susan Elizabeth Ryan, Robert Indiana: Figures of Speech, New Haven, 2000.
     ii Ibid.
    iii Robert Indiana interviewed by Sarah Douglas, “Conversation with . . . Robert Indiana,” Art & Auction 32, September, 2008, p. 71.
    iv Artist Statement, published in “Robert Indiana,” Art Now: New York, March, 1969.
    v Aaron Ott, Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2018, p. 87.
    vi Clare Lilly quoted in Naomi Rea, “The U.K.’s First Major Robert Indiana Survey Pulls Out All the Stops to Make the Case for Him as a Multifaceted Pop Master,” Artnet News, March 11, 2022, online

    • Provenance

      Morgan Art Foundation Ltd., New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2009)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


LOVE (Violet Faces Red Sides)

stamped with the artist's name, number and date "© 1966–1999 R INDIANA 3/6" and the Milgo/Bufkin foundry mark on the lower interior edge of the E
polychromed aluminum
72 x 72 x 36 in. (182.9 x 182.9 x 91.4 cm)
Conceived in 1966 and executed in 1999, this work is number 3 from an edition of 6 plus 4 artist's proofs.

Full Cataloguing

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $724,500

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 19 May 2022