The Guardian takes a closer look a the origins of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sign which has continued to gain value over the last several years in various iterations. The Taubman collection has a three dimensional version and the Sotheby’s is offering in its Frieze sale an very large example of the work on canvas for £1-1.5m:
He may have found pop an insufficient word to describe his art, but he was in its vanguard. Alfred Barr, MoMA’s hard-charging director, acquired his star-studded painting The American Dream, I in 1961 – a key validation for Indiana and a turning point in his career. It was MoMA, too, that asked him to design a Christmas card in 1965, an invitation he happily accepted. He thought of the posters he saw at the Christian Science churches he attended in his youth: God is love, they read. He painted the four letters of that mighty word in a bold typeface and a wild colour scheme, in which red and blue and green jostled against one another. It was of a piece with his other works … but it took on a life of its own.
LOVE proliferated, from 1966 onward, in both authorised and unauthorised forms: as cufflinks, on skateboards, as a Google doodle. Indiana failed to copyright it, as he was wary of adulterating his artwork with a signature – so while his artwork became as famous as the Mona Lisa, the man himself did not. Postage stamps emblazoned with Indiana’s LOVE sold in their hundreds of millions. LOVE sculptures dot the streets from New York to Taipei. But it was always more subversive than its commercial plagiarists understood. LOVE had countercultural implications as America intensified its campaign in Vietnam: for many in the antiwar movement, love and peace were interchangeable – and its universal invocation had particular resonance coming from a gay man in the years before Stonewall. LOVE was no easy hippie affirmation, but an ambiguous artwork no less politically engaged than Indiana’s civil rights paintings. Advertisement