One of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s newest works, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture is also quickly becoming one of the park’s most beloved, serving as backdrop to countless selfies, couples’ photos, and at least one marriage proposal since it was installed just over a year ago. But while it’s our newest acquisition of art by Indiana, who passed away last week at age 89, it the latest example of a relationship between the artist extending back 55 years. Here, archivist Jill Vuchetich looks back at the artist’s history with the Walker.
In 1963 the Walker Art Center presented the young pop artist, Robert Indiana in the exhibition Stankiewicz and Indiana.
The Green Diamond Eat The Red Diamond Die (1962) was acquired from this show, and later it was recreated as popular magnets sold at the Walker Shop. During an October 21, 1963 interview with Walker curator Jan van der Marck, the artist explained:
Everybody eats, and everybody enjoys life, and everybody consumes, and very few people ever think about what all this is really leading to. And after all that is where we are all going, and I find it provocative perhaps to think about it once in a while, and that’s why the DIE is on the other side.
In the show, the diptych was presented, at the artist’s request, back to back, with The Green Diamond Eat on one side and The Red Diamond Die on its reverse. In later presentations, the diamonds appeared side by side.
The work has been shown in at least seven Walker exhibitions and lent for presentations elsewhere, including in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Robert Indiana: Beyond Love (2013–2014).
The Walker’s multidisciplinary nature offered Indiana a unique opportunity a few years later. The recently founded Center Opera Company—now the Minnesota Opera—was established in 1963 when the Walker’s Performing Arts department commissioned Dominick Argento to compose The Masque of Angels. During its first five years, the opera made its home at the Guthrie Theater, then adjacent the Walker, where it hosted its first nationally touring work, the Gertrude Stein opera The Mother of Us All.
John Ludwig, the Walker’s Performing Arts coordinator and general manager of the Center Opera Company, brought Indiana back to Minneapolis in 1967 to be guest designer for the production. Among his efforts, the production’s Walker-commissioned poster:
The work was performed throughout Minnesota, in San Francisco, and on the East Coast, and in 1976 it was expanded for the Santa Fe Opera in honor of the US Bicentennial.
Indiana’s Cor-Ten steel LOVE sculpture was first exhibited in the Walker’s anniversary show, 75 Years: 75 Gifts (2015), which showcased gifted artworks within the Walker collection.
A promised gift of Gillian and Simon Salama-Caro, the work is now a permanent fixture of the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.