Copyright holder settles lawsuit with LOVE artist’s estate

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The estate of pop artist Robert Indiana has reached a settlement that keeps intact a longstanding relationship with Morgan Art Foundation, which holds the copyright for his iconic 1960s “LOVE” series, to promote and preserve his work, officials said Friday.

New York-based Morgan Art Foundation intends to work with the Maine-based Star of Hope Foundation, which aims to transform Indiana’s island home into a museum to celebrate his work.

While the museum takes shape, the two organizations will work to display Indiana’s artwork at venues around the country.

“We’ve done a lot of good stuff, but it’s overshadowed by the litigation,” said Larry Sterrs, chair of the Star of Hope Foundation. Completion of the museum is likely years away, he said.

Indiana’s estate, which is valued at upward of $80 million, had been entangled in a lawsuit brought by Morgan Art Foundation. The lawsuit was filed the day before Indiana’s death on May 19, 2018, at age 89 on Vinalhaven Island, 15 miles (25 kilometers) off Rockland, Maine.

It accused the reclusive artist’s caretaker and an art publisher of taking advantage of Indiana and producing forgeries — accusations the pair denied. That led to more claims and counter claims.

Under the agreement, Morgan dropped its lawsuit against the estate and Indiana’s caretaker but not against the art publisher.

It also doesn’t resolve a case brought by Maine’s attorney general, who claims the estate paid excessive legal fees during litigation. That lawsuit contends $3.7 million paid to four law firms and about $400,000 collected by the estate’s personal representative were excessive.

Indiana created a lifetime of art but he’s best known for LOVE, spelled with two letters to a line and with a tilted “O.”

It’s been transformed into sculptures around the world, and was featured on a U.S. postage stamp.

The goal is display such artwork in a home museum that’s going to be created at Indiana’s former residence in a converted Odd Fellows Hall, a Victorian-style building, on Vinalhaven. Indiana also had several other properties that could be utilized for the art museum, art education and artist-in-residency programs, Sterrs said.

In the meantime, though, Morgan Art Foundation and the Star of Hope Foundation will work together to get the artwork in front of people at venues around the world, Sterrs said. Most of the estate’s $80 million worth cited in court documents comes from the art collection.

“The future is bright for the market and legacy of Robert Indiana, and the estate is pleased to have helped create this success,” said James Brannan, a Rockland attorney for the estate.