One of Robert Indiana’s famed LOVE sculptures, in Philadelphia.

Battle Over Robert Indiana Assets Draws to a Close

The end of the protracted legal fight over the assets of Robert Indiana is in sight, as the Morgan Foundation, Indiana’s longtime representative, reached an out-of-court agreement with the Star of Hope Foundation, the sole beneficiary of his estate, stipulating that the two parties will work together to protect and promote Indiana’s legacy.

One day prior to the death of the legendary artist at the age of 89 in May 2018, the Morgan Foundation filed a federal lawsuit against the artist for defamation, copyright infringement, violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act, and breach of contract; upon the artist’s death, Star of Hope, the nonprofit designated by Indiana to oversee his assets and establish a museum in his former home, became a defendant in the lawsuit, alongside Indiana’s caretaker, Jamie Thomas, and art publisher Mark McKenzie.

The May 2018 filing alleged that Thomas and McKenzie had worked together to isolate the artist from family and friends, and that they had created and sold artworks under the artists’ name without his knowledge. This latter assertion was supposedly supported by a string of text messages between Thomas and McKenzie pondering the salability of works similar to Indiana’s iconic 1970 LOVE, with suggestions including HOME, BEER, and BREW. The pair sold a WINE work to Wine Enthusiast, and a BRAT sculpture, also said to have been by Indiana, to a bratwurst maker; this particular work was cited by the Morgan Foundation as being the most damaging to the artist’s brand and reputation.

At the time of the filing, Maine-based attorney Jamie Brannan was appointed to oversee the transfer of Indiana’s assets to Star of Hope. The assets remain untransferred; instead, Brannan launched a countersuit against the Morgan Foundation financed by emptying Indiana’s bank account and selling works from the artist’s collection to the tune of $6 million to date.

The agreement between the Morgan Foundation and Star of Hope, the details of which have not yet been publicly disclosed, leaves Brannan out in the cold, with the Morgan Foundation filing this week to have Brannan’s suit dismissed.