Loving it: Robert Indiana with a version of his most famous work
Photo: © Joel Greenberg. Courtesy of the Morgan Art Foundation

Robert Indianas estate is seeking to block the reproduction of some of the US artists most famous works, including his LOVE and HOPE images and his Number sculptures.

In a fresh filing in a New York federal court on 10 May, James W. Brannan, the estates personal representative, claims the licensing agreements for Indianas work ended when he died last May.

One of the agreements, first signed in April 1999 and amended in 2004 according to court papers, was with the Morgan Art Foundation and Simon Salama-Caro, Indianas agent and an adviser to the Morgan. The other agreement was with Michael McKenzie, whose publishing company, American Image Art, printed some of Indianas works later in his life.

According to the papers, the April 1999 agreement “did not provide Indiana with any compensation for this purported broad transfer of Indianas rights in his lifes work”. Instead, Indiana was to receive 50% of sales profits, “after the deduction of a long list of expenses”.

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A later agreement, made in December 1999 concerning Indianas sculptures, stipulated that Morgan would pay Indiana 20% of the receipts received. An amendment was made to allow the fabrication of marble sculptures, but the Morgan allegedly also created and sold LOVE sculptures fabricated in travertine, granite and malachite.

The complaint alleges the Morgan “never” paid Indiana his percentage within 30 days of each sale. “Instead, once a year, Morgan sent Indiana a check accompanied by a single-line statement of a dollar amount that was payable to Robert Indiana—without any explanation as to how the amount was calculated, what works Morgan had sold, to whom, at what price, and what expenses had been deducted.”

Brannan says all agreements, amendments and subsequent modifications, including “any authorisations from Indiana concerning a catalogue raisonné” were “terminated on the death of Indiana”. Salama-Caro is currently working on the artists catalogue raisonné, due to be published this year.

Luke Nikas, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, says the Morgan Art Foundation “entered into binding contracts with Robert Indiana and spent a fortune funding Robert Indianas artistic creations when no one else would. It has paid Indiana millions of dollars”. He adds: “Simon Salama-Caro has devoted nearly three decades promoting Indiana and his works, a relationship that started when Indianas market was negligible.”

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