Robert Indiana ‘LOVE’ sculpture returning to New York at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center, in partnership with The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, will present an installation of works by influential American artist Robert Indiana (1928-2018), on view throughout the landmark Rockefeller Center campus from September 13 through October 23, 2023. Featuring monumental sculptures and a series of flags surrounding The Rink at Rockefeller Center, the exhibition highlights works created by Indiana throughout his distinguished career, including the long-awaited return of his iconic LOVE sculpture to New York City.

“It is an honor to partner with the team at Rockefeller Center to bring the works of Robert Indiana to the people of New York, where we know Bob always wanted his art to be integrated into the vibrant streetscapes and made accessible to the public,” Simon Salama-Caro, founder of The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, said. “Bob’s legacy is woven into the history of this great city and we are particularly proud to have LOVE return to the place that so energized him as a young artist. I hope these works will inspire and move New Yorkers and visitors to Rockefeller Center anew.”

LOVE, a 12-foot-high polychrome aluminum public artwork, will sit on Center Plaza. For decades, this version of the beloved sculpture stood at the corner of 55th Street and Sixth Avenue, until it was removed for conservation in 2019. The LOVE sculpture’s illustrious history as a New York landmark began in 1971 when a version of the work was first displayed at the Fifth Avenue and 60th Street entrance to Central Park.

LOVE, with its unmistakable slanted ‘O’ within a square format, first appeared in 1964 in a series of frottage drawings in graphite and colored pencil, which Indiana sent as cards to art world friends.

As Indiana explained in 1969, “The ‘LOVE Sculpture’ is the culmination of ten years of work based on the original premise that the word is an appropriated and usable element of art, just as Picasso and the Cubists made use of it at the beginning of the century.”

“We are thrilled to be the destination for the return of Robert Indiana’s instantly recognizable LOVE sculpture, and to host a campus-wide exhibition of the late, great artist’s work,” EB Kelly, head of Rockefeller Center, said. “We expect this to be a huge draw for fans, both new and old, and we thank the Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative for being such great partners.”

Robert Indiana ‘The Ten Numbers’

A second major feature of the Rockefeller Center installation will be Indiana’s monumental sculptures ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) (1980-2001), each eight feet high and made of Cor-ten steel, which represent the cycle of human life from birth to death. Indiana’s fascination with numbers — a significant motif throughout his work — stemmed from an awareness of how they are connected to everything we do and how they are understood across many languages.

Indiana remarked, “Numbers fill my life. They fill my life even more than love. We are immersed in numbers from the moment we are born.”

The 193 flags surrounding The Rink at Rockefeller Center will feature images from Indiana’s Peace Paintings series, created as a response to the 9/11 attacks, which he witnessed while in New York City. Incorporating the peace sign, these paintings reflect poignant themes of unity, acceptance and love that are present throughout Indiana’s work. “I think of my peace paintings as one long poem, with each painting being a single stanza,” Indiana said in 2003.

Installation view, Wilkeson Pointe, Buffalo (New York), 2018, ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers), 1980–2003, Cor-Ten steel on painted aluminum base.
Installation view, Wilkeson Pointe, Buffalo (New York), 2018, ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers), 1980–2003, Cor-Ten steel on painted aluminum base. Photo Tom Powel Imaging

Robert Indiana’s Legacy

Robert Indiana (1928-2018) was one of the pioneers of art in the 20th Century, whose influence on American culture continues today. A preeminent figure in American art since the 1960s, Indiana played a central role in the development of assemblage art and hard-edge painting as well as Pop.

A self-proclaimed “American painter of signs,” Indiana created a highly original body of work that explores American identity, personal history and the power of abstraction and language, establishing an important legacy that resonates in the work of many contemporary artists who make the written word a central element of their practice.

Robert Indiana’s works are being re-introduced to a new generation of New Yorkers amid the largest transformation Rockefeller Center has experienced in its nearly century-long history. Rockefeller Center’s public art program was established in the early 1930s by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife Abigail and was described as one of the most prominent and ambitious projects of the Great Depression. Today, the campus features more than 100 historic public works of art, hidden in plain sight, alongside New York City’s most creative and gifted talents across dining, retail, design and music.

About The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative

Established in 2022, The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, LLC aims to increase awareness of and appreciation for the depth and breadth of the work of Robert Indiana. Addressing curators and scholars, collectors, art-market professionals and the public at large, The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative

  • maintains a collection and archive of Robert Indiana’s art
  •  encourages and supports exhibitions and public installations of Indiana’s work
  • assists with and promotes scholarly research on Indiana and his artistic career
  • manages the website and distributes a newsletter 

The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative is headed by Simon Salama-Caro, who began working as a gallerist with Robert Indiana in 1988, devoting the next few decades to safeguarding and advancing Indiana’s artistic achievement. From 1995 onwards, Salama-Caro worked with Indiana as his exclusive world-wide representative for the authorized production, sale and promotion of such Indiana sculpture series as LOVE (1966), ART (1972), AHAVA (1977), ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) (1978) and AMOR (1998). 

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