Under The Hammer: Top Prices Paid For Robert Indiana At Auction

Written by - MyArtBroker
Decade (USA 666) by Robert IndianaDecade (USA 666) © Robert Indiana 1971
Toni Clayton

Toni Clayton, American Pop & Modern Specialist

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Robert Indiana is one of the most successful artists of the 20th century and his unique use of text and graphic colour has seen his work perform well under the hammer. His most famous LOVE sculptures have consistently realised millions, and have lead to the success of Indiana prints on the secondary market.

Despite fears that a recent legal dispute with his longtime financial backer would taint his work’s performance at auction, Indiana remains successful, and here we look at some of his most expensive artworks:

£2.7M for The Great American Love (Love Wall)

(US$3,555,000 )

The Great American LOVE (love wall) by Robert Indiana Image © Sotheby's / The Great American LOVE (love wall) © Robert Indiana 1972

The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) was sold at the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York, on November 14th, 2018. It had been previously acquired by the seller from a Christie’s auction in 2005. This four-panel oil painting from 1972 is instantly recognisable for Robert Indiana’s use of bold typographic design, monochrome colour palette and signature Love motif. The word first appeared in the artist’s oeuvre in 1966, and quickly gained him national appeal given its resonance with countercultural movements at the time.

In this characteristic painting, Indiana explores the relationship between colour and the written word in a geometrical composition of white serif letters against a bright blue and lively red background, referencing the colours in the American flag. The artist creates an intriguing visual interplay between positive and negative spaces in the image through the use of primary colour blocks. The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) also draws on Pop Art in its precise and mechanical execution, graphic style and sign-like effect, recalling both Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha. Indiana erects a timeless monument to the universal concept of love.

£2.7M for Love

(US$3,495,000)

Love 1967 by Robert IndianaImage © Sotheby's / Love 1967 © Robert Indiana 1967

Robert Indiana’s Love from 1967 sold at Sotheby’s New York, Contemporary Art Evening Auction on November 14th, 2018. The large-scale, bright blue canvas with four, hard-edged red letters spelling the word “love” is an iconic example of Indiana’s oeuvre, which played a pivotal role in the development of assemblage art and hard-edge painting.

The Love motif first appeared in his works in 1966, and was widely distributed through the United States Postal Service "LOVE" stamp in 1973, instantly popular due to the ongoing hippie movement. Spanning a range of underlying meanings, from the erotic, religious, political and autobiographical, Love’s power lies in its straddling of the simple and the complex.

£2.5M for Love Red-Blue (1990)

(US$4114500)

Love Red-Blue by Robert IndianaImage © Christie's / Love Red-Blue © Robert Indiana 1990

Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE works – which span paintings, prints and sculptures – have by now become emblematic of American Pop culture. Since the first work appeared on the art scene in 1966, Indiana’s LOVE has taken over the entire world and the global art market. It is therefore no surprise that his 1990 painted aluminium Love Red/Blue sculpture holds the title for the most expensive Indiana work ever sold in US dollars.

The sculpture, part of a series of 3, was unveiled at Christie’s New York on 12 May 2011 on the occasion of their “Post-War and Contemporary Art Featuring Property from an Important Private European Collection Afternoon Session”, and fetched a whopping USD 4,114,500 (almost £3.4 million). Strikingly simple and direct, Indiana described Love Red/Blue as a “verbal-visual act” that explores the relationship between written and visual language.

A pioneer of Pop Art and hard-edge painting, Indiana explores the relationship between text, meaning and colour through this pivotal series. In Love Red/Blue, the letters are coated in shiny red and blue, created in the same scale and dual colour as the famous Love sculpture in New York's 6th Avenue and 55th Street. The word” love” is connected to the artist’s childhood memories at a Christian Science church, where he saw the inscription "God is Love" on the wall. The motif later came to embody the spirit of the 1960s hippie movements alongside other political, religious, erotic and autobiographical connotations.

£1.7M for Love

($3,513,000)

Love by Robert IndianaImage © Christie's / Love © Robert Indiana 1966

The first of Indiana's emblematic LOVE project in a towering sculpture, the 1966 Love was manufactured from aluminium in collaboration with Marian Goodman. Swathed in red, blue, and green hues, Indiana's Love sold for £1.7million against an estimate of $1-1.5million in Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art auction in New York on 14 November 2007. The sale has nearly tripled past its highest estimate of £726,450.

£1.6M for One Through Zero

(US$2,060,000 )

One Through Zero (The Ten Numbers) by Robert IndianaImage © Sotheby's / One Through Zero (The Ten Numbers) © Robert Indiana 19786

One Through Zero (The Ten Numbers) by Robert Indiana was sold at the Contemporary Art Day Sale at Sotheby’s New York on November 15th, 2019. The artwork consists of 10 monumental sculptures of numbers 0 to 9, each rendered in bright, monochromatic colours on top of black-and-white plinths. It was created between 1980 and 2001.

Reflective of Indiana’s iconic style, One Through Zero (The Ten Numbers) is a meditation on the relationship between meaning, colour, form and the audience, extended into three-dimensional space. The use of numbers grew prominent in Indiana's works from the end of the 1950s, becoming an integral part of his style in the 1960s. The design of the numbers One Through Zero (The Ten Numbers) was inspired by a printer's calendar the artist discovered in his loft in Coenties Slip - akin to the font used in his pivotal Love series of sculptures and paintings.

£1.6M for Love

(US$2,052,500)

Love by Robert IndianaImage © Sotheby's / Love © Robert Indiana 1969

Love by Robert Indiana was sold at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s New York on May 18th, 2017. It had been acquired by the seller from a private collection in New jersey. Created in 1969, the emblematic oil painting captures a precise geometrical composition with the individual letters of the word “love” in three primary colours; red, white and blue.

Indiana creates a captivating visual dialogue between meaning, form and image, accentuating the negative spaces within the hard-edged typographic design through the use of bright colour blocks. The canvas is a prime illustration of Pop Art’s pervasive influence on Indiana’s painting, borrowing from the visual language of signage and advertisement and elevating the universally accessible word into a mythical, iconic status.

£1.6M for Love

Love by Robert IndianaImage © Sotheby's / LOVE © Robert Indiana 1967

Robert Indiana’s canvas Love from 1967 sold at the Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Evening Auction on the 15th of October, 2015. Its seller had acquired the painting directly from the artist. One of the most canonical works of 20th Century American Art, the painting depicts four, large red letters stacked on top of each other, spelling the word “love” in bright red against a blue background.

It’s a quintessential example of Indiana’s most iconic series starting in 1966, centred on the interplay between colour, text, meaning and the viewer through focusing on the single word “love”. Love illustrates the influence of Pop Art and artists such as Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol on Indiana’s practice, in its stencilled flatness and likeness to commercial signage. As a symbol that embodies a range of underpinnings from the erotic, religious, political and autobiographical, Love resonates as a universal yet infinitely nuanced monument.

£1.5M for Love

(US$1,872,500)

Love by Robert IndianaImage © Christie's / LOVE © Robert Indiana 1998

Love by Robert Indiana was sold at the Christie’s New York Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session on November 16th, 2018. The seller had acquired the piece directly from the artist. The monumental sculpture stands 8 feet tall, shaping the word "love” was conceived in 1966 and executed in 1998 as the first artist's proof from an edition of five plus two artist's proofs. With its vibrant, stencil-style contours and primary palette of red, blue and green, this sculpture is emblematic of Indiana’s canonical Love series, existing in a variety of mediums, materials and sizes.

The present work embodies Indiana’s concept of a “verbal-visual” act as a freestanding, architectural poem that brings together colour, text and typographic design. Love distils a multitude of different meanings and associations - from the religious and socio-political to the personal and intimate - into one distinct and powerful symbol.

£1.5M for Love Wall (Red Blue Green)

(US$2841000)

Love Wall (Red Blue Green) by Robert IndianaImage © Sotheby's / Love Wall (Red Blue Green) © Robert Indiana 1966

Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE works – which span paintings, prints and sculptures – have by now become emblematic of American Pop culture. Since the first work appeared on the art scene in 1966, Indiana’s LOVE has taken over the entire world and the global art market. It is therefore no surprise to find another iteration of the motif among the most expensive Indiana works ever sold.

The oil painting on canvas was unveiled at Sotheby’s New York on 14 May 2008 as part of their Contemporary Art Evening Auction and fetched 2.841.000 USD dollars (almost £1.5 million). Executed in 1966, Love Wall (Red Green Blue) displays a kaleidoscopic pattern that only upon closer inspection is revealed to be four different iterations of his LOVE motif.

£1.3M for Love

(US$1706500)

LOVE (blue/red) by Robert IndianaImage © Sotheby's / LOVE (blue/red) © Robert Indiana 1966

Robert Indiana’s sculpture Love was sold at Sotheby’s New York on November 14th, 2012, as a part of their Contemporary Art Day Sale, previously belonging to a private collection in Europe. One of the most significant pieces of Pop Art of the 20th century, Indiana’s sculpture Love was initially executed in the four letters carved from a block of aluminium in 1966 for the Stable Gallery. In the present work 96-inch sculpture, the single word “love” is painted with bright, glossy blue with vibrant red on the inside of the letters. Inspired by Indiana’s ongoing interest in the role of signage in American visual culture, this artwork encapsulates his artistic explorations around how language and colour can evoke different immediate associations in the viewer in three-dimensional space. Love is universally understood, while at the same time carrying subjective associations for each individual viewer.

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