Eagle-eyed visitors to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) have no doubt noticed that one of gallery’s most prized works, Robert Indiana’s LOVE (1970), is not in its usual location. The sculpture, which is the original version of the artist’s popular series, was removed from its home on the mall outside the museum in January to undergo much-needed conservation work.
Decades of exposure to the elements have taken their toll, with water infiltration being the main preservation issue. The sculpture suffers from external and internal corrosion, leading to holes and split seams. Also of concern are the orange and red streaks that mar the work’s original appearance. Unlike later versions, in painted aluminium, the IMA’s LOVE is crafted from Cor-Ten steel—a relatively new material when Indiana made this piece. The paint on his later aluminium pieces offers an extra layer of protection.
The conservation firm Lippincott is leading the project to stabilise the sculpture. After taking it apart to allow the individual components to dry out, conservators will deal with the corrosion and repair the holes. It will then be reassembled.
Charles Venable, the IMA’s director, says that the museum is “committed to preserving LOVE so it can be enjoyed for generations to come”. According to the museum’s website, Indiana’s sculpture will be reinstalled this spring in a new, indoor location.