Robert Indiana - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | Phillips

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  • A classic, instantly recognizable form, Robert Indiana’s LOVE (Blue and Red), 1966–2001, epitomizes 20th century American Pop Art while transcending definition. Regarded as a staple in a shared global cultural consciousness, the present work and iterations like it continue to pop up everywhere, from revered museum collections to mundane refrigerator magnets, with editions being created worldwide in different languages. Originating as a 1964 Christmas card design that the artist sent to friends, the LOVE motif cemented Indiana’s place at the forefront of word-based art, a movement since joined by giants such as Ed Ruscha, Glenn Ligon and Jenny Holzer. The symbol’s ubiquity in all its guises also prefigured the proliferation of the multiple as an oft-used concept in art. In both large and small scale, the LOVE series represents one of the artist’s most popular images.


    Jenny Holzer, Light Stream, 2013. Image: Courtesy Jenny Holzer / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 Jenny Holzer / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

    The 18-inch format of the present example maintains the symbolic weight of the enormous public works, but its smaller scale reflects a distinct slant to the many meanings of the four-letter word. Compared to the public displays and proclamations of peace and love in the 1960s, the modest scale of the present work embodies the word’s more private and intimate meanings. While Indiana’s ten-foot-tall iterations of lexical blocks seem to shout an imperative command, this example feels like a quieter statement of an intimate noun. The less forceful tone derived from its scale opens up the message to viewers’ own interpretations—in particular the tilt of the “O,” which, according to Barbara Haskell, reflected the precarity of personal relationships as Indiana saw them.i While this could suggest a sense of pessimism, the “O”’s specific tilt reaches up to the top right corner, expanding and asserting its fullness in complete volume, rather than going the opposite way and diminishing the word’s full space.


    In addition to scale variety, Indiana has reworked LOVE into countless iterations of his original theme, in diverse colorations, media, and compositions. However, the present work remains truest to the classic punchy simplicity of primary red-and-blue colors, instantly recognizable and symbolic of mid-century Americana. Described by Indiana as an homage to his father and his work at a gas station—inspired by the red Phillips 66 gas station sign against a “blue Hoosier sky”—the present work reflects a nostalgia that is essential to the artist’s practice, recalling a shared memory within a global consciousness that is as relevant in the present day as it was in 1966.ii



    i Barbara Haskell, quoted in Brett Sokol, “’LOVE’ and Other Four-Letter Words,” in The New York Times, May 23, 2018, online.

    ii Robert Indiana, quoted in Barbara Haskell, ed., Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2013, p. 198.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2021


LOVE (Blue and Red)

stamped with the artist's name, number, date and the Milgo/Bufkin foundry mark "© 1966-2001 R INDIANA 2/8" on the lower interior edge of the "V"
polychromed aluminum
18 x 18 x 9 in. (45.7 x 45.7 x 22.9 cm)
Executed in 1966–2001, this work is number 2 from an edition of 8.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 November 2023