Late artist’s mu­seum dreams mired in law­suit over es­tate

Times Colonist - - Arts -

ROCK­LAND, Maine — Pop artist Robert In­di­ana had a sim­ple wish: He wanted to trans­form his is­land home into a mu­seum to pre­serve and show his art col­lec­tion to the pub­lic.

The re­al­ity is far more com­pli­cated.

Lawyers re­cently gath­ered in Knox County Pro­bate Court and ques­tioned peo­ple close to In­di­ana about the pop artist’s $60-mil­lion US as­sets, in­clud­ing his fa­mous LOVE se­ries.

But the process of sort­ing out those as­sets and get­ting the mu­seum started will likely be de­layed be­cause of a law­suit al­leg­ing In­di­ana’s care­taker and an art pub­lisher took ad­van­tage of him and pro­duced forg­eries, ac­cu­sa­tions the pair de­nies. It was filed by the com­pany that owns the copy­right to sev­eral of his most fa­mous works.

“I don’t see us be­gin­ning this process un­til the lit­i­ga­tion is over,” said James Bran­nan, lawyer for the es­tate.

The reclu­sive artist died at age 89 on May 19 at his home on Vi­nal­haven Is­land, off Maine.

Last week, Jamie Thomas, In­di­ana’s care­giver and power of at­tor­ney, ac­knowl­edged re­ceiv­ing more than 100 pieces of In­di­ana’s art­work as gifts over the years. Tes­ti­mony sug­gested he also was paid about $490,000 and with­drew $615,000 at In­di­ana’s re­quest from bank ac­counts in the fi­nal two years of the artist’s life.

Un­der In­di­ana’s will, Thomas would run the foun­da­tion and mu­seum.

In­di­ana is best known for LOVE, cre­ated in the 1960s and rec­og­niz­able around the world. Cou­ples have their photo taken at the LOVE sculp­ture in Philadel­phia, and the iconic image was used on postage stamps.

He was a pop­u­lar artist in New York, but re­treated in 1978 to Maine.

His death was deemed not sus­pi­cious, though the of­fi­cial cause of death is “un­de­ter­mined.”

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