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LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, on the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in New York
© Wikimedia Commons

A bitter and tangled legal case over the rights to Robert Indianas works, including his most famous LOVE and HOPE sculptures, inched closer to a final outcome earlier this week when a New York judge dismissed most of the case made by the artists estate against his longtime representative, the Morgan Art Foundation.

Among the estates counterclaims rejected in court on 1 July are allegations that the Morgan failed to provide Indiana with proper accounts and pay him royalties. Other claims that the Morgan fabricated unauthorised reproductions of Indianas work were also dismissed—except in the case of a series of LOVE sculptures created in semiprecious stone, some of which are on display in a gallery in New York.

The counterclaims were made as part of a much-publicised lawsuit filed by the Morgan the day before Indiana died in May 2018 alleging that Michael McKenzie, the founder of the publishing firm American Image Art and Indianas caretaker, Jamie Thomas, conspired to exploit the increasingly infirm artist by fraudulently selling unauthorised works attributed to him. They both deny any wrongdoing. Indianas estate, largely comprised of works of art valued at a total of $66m, is also named in the lawsuit.

According to court documents, the Morgan made two agreements with Indiana in 1999. One contract gives the Morgan the copyright and trademark to all images and sculpture Indiana produced between 1960 and 2004 and the exclusive right to reproduce and sell the images. Under a second contract, the Morgan has the exclusive right to fabricate and sell certain sculptures, including LOVE.

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The estates counterclaim says that the Morgans adviser, Simon Salama-Caro, failed to discuss the fabrication of the semiprecious stone sculptures with Indiana, as stipulated in the contract. However, Luke Nikas, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan who represents the Morgan, says those allegations are false. “The Morgan had a contract with Indiana that covered these works, and Salama-Caro spoke repeatedly with Indiana about them. We have photographs of Indiana himself with one of these sculptures in his home; he owned it and proudly displayed it,” Nikas says. “We expect to prevail on this claim once the court is permitted to consider the facts.”

In a wide-ranging 47-page order, covering counterclaims and crossclaims by all parties, judge Analisa Torres also dismissed most of the counterclaims made by McKenzie against the Morgan. The foundations original lawsuit accuses McKenzie of unleashing at least $30m-worth of Indiana forgeries on the market, but the court denied McKenzies request to temporarily suspend those legal proceedings. McKenzie did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In August 2008, Indiana and McKenzies firm, American Image Art (AIA), entered into a contract to produce HOPE sculptures and prints, for which AIA paid Indiana $1m a year. Originally a reference to Indianas home in Maine—the Star of Hope Lodge—the project took on new meaning when Barack Obama began to use the word “hope” in his 2008 presidential campaign. The first HOPE sculpture was unveiled that August outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Despite this exposure, McKenzie says he was “prevented from participating in valuable exhibitions” and “virtually unable” to sell Indianas HOPE works for “anything approaching their true value”. According to court papers, McKenzie claims this was because the Morgan told art dealers that HRead More – Source

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