The (Former) Base of Philly's Most Famous Public Artwork Was Designed by a Nameless Bureaucrat
BY JARED BREY
Robert Indiana’s LOVE Statue has been missing from its usual home for several months, as its namesake park undergoes a renovation. It has been stationed instead in Dilworth Park, and soon it will be sent out for repainting and refurbishing before being restored to its old home when the park reopens.
At the moment, the Art Commission is considering whether to approve a new design for the base of the statue. Apparently, according to a letter from public art director Margot Berg, Robert Indiana never liked the trapezoidal metal base that served as the LOVE sculpture’s perch. He felt that instead it should be rectangular, and so a rectangular base will be created for it. This will perhaps be a small comfort to the artist, who reportedly never copyrighted the work and therefore failed to make very much money on the truckload of LOVE merchandise that would soon fill gift shops everywhere. (Last fall, a companion sculpture by Indiana, called AMOR, was permanently placed in Sister Cities Park.)
Anyway, contained in Ms. Berg’s letter is a small revelation: the existing pedestal for the LOVE statue was “designed by a member of the Department of Public Property’s staff in the 1980s.”
Who is this nameless staff member? Could it be that he or she is still quietly toiling away in some windowless municipal office? Step forward, we say. Claim your rightful place in history.
How many millions of tourists have peered between that steel trapezoid’s legs up the Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art? What will become of it? Can it be maintained, moved about periodically to be used as a free-floating frame for other iconic views?
“I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap and comes out on top,” Claes Oldenburg, creator of Philadelphia’s second-most-famous public artwork, once said. The LOVE Trapezoid spent decades on the bottom. The time seems right for it to stand on its own.