The LOVE Sculpture
8 Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture began as an experiment in poetry. First it was a typographic idea, then a series of paintings. Then The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York commissioned him to do a Christmas card based on it. In 1971 he created the first of his outdoor LOVE sculptures — in Boston. Then came New York. Now it is in cities all over the world. By 1973 the LOVE artwork was so popular the US Postal Service used it for a Valentine’s Day stamp. It sold three hundred million copies, and for many years it was the best selling commemorative stamp in history.
But Robert Indiana had put neither his signature nor a copyright symbol on his original design. He had not wanted to compromise its simplicity. So — although a lot of people imagined he was a commercial sellout, cynically making millions — quite the opposite was the case. From the purest of motives, he made almost no money out his LOVE design at all.
I love Robert Indiana’s LOVE. It is my favourite image. I love the way it looks, and the graphic statement it makes. But I also love it because love is my favourite idea. I mean love in all senses — or maybe just two. The small, personal sense and the big, cosmic, philosophical sense. The first is the love you give to people you actually know — intense and specific and individual. The second is an attitude to life, a way of living: a quest to walk in love, and to give love, in everything you do. I am fascinated by love — I am fascinated by the bare fact that, in this raggle-taggle world — it exists at all! And it is the subject of all of my books.
The story of Robert Indiana’s LOVE design is a sad one. His generosity should never have been so abused. But what joy that artwork has given me and countless others! And here, you see, is the paradox. For what he did, in giving his LOVE away so freely, was indeed true love.