Imperial Love, 1966/2006
Corten steel, 244 x 488 x 152 cm (without plinth)
Donation of the Morgan Art Foundation to the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie
Born in 1928 in New Castle (Indiana), Robert Indiana is considered one of the foremost exponents of US Pop Art. “Imperial Love” was designed in 1966 and finally took shape as a sculpture in 2006. Indiana effectively doubles up his most famous visual creation, a square-shaped logo arranged from the letters L and O over a V and an E, to form a horizontal diptych. The “one-word poem”, as the artist describes his creation, thus became a picture puzzle that functions as a simultaneously abstract and graphic statement and a multilayered signifier. The concise typographical form of LOVE was first created in 1964. Adopting design principles used in advertising, Indiana graphically reduced the visual motif down to its bare essentials. However, it was only with the creation of the “Imperial Love” sculpture that the full potential of this mirrored “word picture” emerged: viewers are able to walk around the work, which can be read from its reverse side.
Indiana’s LOVE captured the euphoric spirit of the mid-1960s. The work’s motif brings together aspects of art, consumer culture, religion, politics, and sexuality, which Indiana then transformed into a world-famous logo. The motif re-appeared in various permutations in art and popular culture, including works by the Canadian artists’ collective General Idea. Robert Indiana’s LOVE became one of the most famous works in art history and an integral part of our collective visual memory.
The work, measuring five metres across and made of Corten steel, is the first sculpture by Robert Indiana to feature in the collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Once the Neue Nationalgalerie has re-opened, the work will take its permanent place on the museum’s sculpture terrace; in the meantime, it will be kept at the Hamburger Bahnhof.