Robert Indiana, Artist at the Center of a Legal Fight, Left an Estate Worth $28 Million

Posted May 25, 2018 6:02 p.m. EDT

ROCKLAND, Maine — Artist Robert Indiana, who in his final years was the subject of a struggle over who represented him and controlled his work, left behind an estate worth an estimated $28 million, according to a court filing Friday.

Indiana, best known for his “LOVE” sculpture and its many variants, died on May 19 at the age of 89 at his home on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine. His will, filed Friday in Knox County Probate Court, leaves most of his art and property to a nonprofit whose mission is to develop Indiana’s home into a museum featuring his works.

The will said the organization was to be run by Jamie Thomas, Indiana’s caretaker in his final years.

The day before Indiana died, Morgan Art Foundation, a company that says it has long held the rights to several of his best-known works, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Thomas and a New York art publisher had isolated Indiana from the world and produced unauthorized or adulterated versions of his art.

Luke Nikas, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in that case, expressed concerns over Thomas’ appointment to lead the nonprofit at a time when the company is battling in court over who controls the rights to some of Indiana’s often-reproduced work.

“We will fight to protect Indiana’s legacy and will be vigorously challenging this appointment with the Maine attorney general and in court,” Nikas said in an email Friday.

Thomas has not responded to requests for an interview. But Indiana’s lawyer, James Brannan, who is named as executor of the will, said Friday that Morgan had owed Indiana royalties and that Thomas had been simply carrying out Indiana’s wishes for privacy.

“It got to the point that everybody who wanted access wanted something in return,” Brannan said. “He was a very private individual, and he did not handle that well.”

Indiana’s will directed that his former residence, a onetime Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge known as the Star of Hope, would serve as a museum, run by the nonprofit Star of Hope Foundation.

The building, and the art Indiana kept there, are notable, said Michael Komanecky, chief curator of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, a town nearby on the mainland.

“To me, it’s one of the most remarkable artist environments in the United States, because of this combination of Bob’s work, and how he has presented it in this highly decorated interior that served a fraternal order in the 19th century,” he said.

The distinctive building is now moldering, however, with rotten clapboards, boarded-up windows and a blue tarp on the roof.

The will did not contain a detailed list of assets that Indiana, who had no immediate family as survivors, left behind. But Brannan said the bulk of the estate was artwork. The court filing fee for the will, which is based on the value of the estate, indicated it was worth about $28 million.

In addition to the Star of Hope, the will notes several other Vinalhaven properties, including a former sail loft on the harbor that Indiana used as a studio. Brannan said the properties are worth $1.5 million to $2 million.