Robert Indiana’s ‘Love’ Made Him Famous. But Has a Spiteful Legal Battle Tarnished His Market Legacy for Good?


Over the weekend, the U.K.’s very first key study of perform by the late American Pop icon Robert Indiana opened at the sprawling Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 

Indiana is of program best identified for his graphic typographical “LOVE” sculptures, each with a tilted “O,” which are among the some of the most reproduced will work of art in the planet. And whilst there was plenty of “LOVE” to go all over at the sculpture park, its director, Clare Lilley, who also curated the clearly show, explained she aimed to open up up comprehension of the artist beyond his most famed sequence. 

The demonstrate was organized in conjunction with the Morgan Artwork Foundation, which represented Indiana in the course of his lifetime and these days owns the copyright to some of his most famous performs. The organization is probably hoping the present will ignite industry desire in Indiana’s other get the job done, far too.

The artist’s market place has been troubled in latest decades. A knotty legal saga has overshadowed Indiana’s legacy since his dying, in 2018, and has solid doubts above the authenticity of some of his late is effective.

We delved into Artnet’s Cost Database to see irrespective of whether to find signposts for what may well be to appear.


Table of Contents

The Context

Auction file: $4.1 million, achieved at Christie’s New York in Might 2011

In 2021:

Loads sold: 230

Acquired in: 71

Promote-via level: 76.4 per cent

Ordinary sale value: $32,954

Indicate estimate: $21,602

Overall gross sales: $7.6 million

Prime painting value: $1.3 million

Least expensive painting cost: $94,500

Cheapest overall rate: $284, for a print that was aspect of an edition of 100

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Around the globe Company.

  1. For Appreciate and Funds. Maybe unsurprisingly, versions on “LOVE” are Indiana’s finest undertaking is effective at auction. Indiana’s prime cost was achieved for a purple-and-blue-painted aluminium “LOVE” sculpture. Of the 39 will work that have manufactured more than $1 million at auction, just 10 were not expressions of “LOVE.” 
  2. The Ability of Like. Indiana’s market was on the increase appropriate up until the 2008 economic disaster, when his overall product sales crashed 84 p.c in 2009. But the industry swiftly recovered, achieving a peak in 2011, when his operate designed $19.2 million at auction. His gross sales have nevertheless to solution individuals heights since, dropping 60.5 per cent considering the fact that then in 2021.
  3. Highway Signs. In 2021, a overall of 301 Robert Indiana is effective were offered at auction, the highest quantity but, but the common value obtained was the cheapest it has been considering that 2009. 
  4. Slings and Arrows. In 2018, the yr of the artist’s death, his perform manufactured $14.9 million at auction. And while an artist’s death and the resulting crunch on provide to the marketplace typically results in a increase in secondary marketplace rates, the next year his total sales really plunged 44.5 p.c, and has been declining at any time given that.
  5. Percolating Desire. Last year, 3,237 buyers searched for Indiana in Artnet’s Rate Database, which is extra than the range who searched for Albert Oehlen, Georges Braque, or Agnes Martin (one particular of Indiana’s New York contemporaries).


Base Line

Indiana’s market background is a intriguing situation examine of how fame does not always warranty a lasting artistic legacy. Although Indiana’s psychologically elaborate sculptures and assemblages were attaining significant recognition in the 1960s, his reputation was eclipsed by the mainstream attraction of the “LOVE” works from 1970 onwards. The extra common and ubiquitous these became—they ended up reproduced on key rings and t-shirts, and even immortalized on a postage stamp—the considerably less critics preferred to have interaction severely with his perform. Indiana became so disillusioned with the important reaction in New York that he up and remaining the town in 1978 for a distant island off the coast of Maine, where by he put in the remaining 4 decades of his daily life.

But his fortunes started to alter in the two a long time in advance of his death with a wave of exhibitions bringing more interest to his lesser recognized operates, and in 2013 a critically acclaimed retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art awakened art earth cognescenti to a far more ominous facet of his oeuvre. And as his essential reception swelled, so did his market (full gross sales jumped 73.6 % in 2014).

Meanwhile, Indiana was having older and much more frail, and darkish accusations pertaining to how he was treated at the finish of his existence may have interrupted that trajectory. Shortly ahead of Indiana’s demise, in 2018, the Morgan Artwork Basis filed a federal suit in opposition to artwork vendor Michael McKenzie and his editions corporation, as nicely as the artist’s caretaker, Jamie Thomas, alleging that they had isolated the artist, taken benefit of him, and developed unauthorized reproductions of his work. While the warring factions arrived at an out of court settlement final March, the Morgan submitted a new motion towards McKenzie in December which has however to be solved.

The legal saga has no question experienced a harmful affect on his market. Now that the epic is nearing some variety of conclusion, and exhibitions like the just one on see in the U.K. go on to broaden the public understanding of his oeuvre, it continues to be to be found no matter if Indiana’s industry will get back its footing in the months and yrs to appear.

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