Artist Robert Indiana died at the age of 89 on May 19, 2018, at his home on Vinalhaven Island, which is off the coast of Rockland, Maine. In his will, he left most of his art and property to a nonprofit whose mission is to develop Indiana’s home into a museum featuring his works.
He was a popular artist in New York when he created his LOVE artwork in the 1960s. The art was made into a sculpture in Philadelphia, and the image was used on postage stamps.
A day before his death, a lawsuit filed by Morgan Art Foundation Limited, an organization that had represented Mr. Indiana for many years, alleged that Jamie Thomas, a fisherman turned caretaker / power of attorney, conspired with a New York art publisher, Michael McKenzie, to isolate Indiana in his home and cut him off from any outside contact in an effort to exploit the artist for money. The lawsuit alleges that the two men produced unauthorized versions of Indiana’s art and sold them for profit.
In a probate court hearing, attorneys for Indiana’s estate discovered that in recent years Thomas earned $250,000 annually from Indiana and had made several large cash withdrawals from Indiana’s bank account. Thomas also acknowledged receiving more than 100 pieces of Indiana’s artwork as gifts.
It may take at least two years for the current lawsuit that accuses several people of taking advantage of Indiana to be sorted out before his home can be transformed into a museum of his artwork. The current value of the estate is $60 million. It’s estimated that it will take $10 million to turn Indiana’s home into a museum.