PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When the iconic LOVE sculpture returns to its namesake park, next month, it will have a decidedly different look but it will look the way artist Robert Indiana intended it to, when he created it in 1975.
The restoration of the sculpture now underway will correct a long-overlooked mistake: the accidental change of a key color, during an earlier restoration in 1988.
The red, green and blue color scheme so familiar to Philadelphians, it turns out, was originally red, green and purple and the city is restoring the purple at the request of Indiana’s representatives.
“We were happy that the representatives brought the more accurate colors to the city’s attention,” says Public Art Director Margot Berg.
The mistake was discovered when the conservators the city hired for the current renovation contacted Indiana’s representatives to get the color codes so they could match the paint scheme.
“It was at that point that the representatives requested that the city restore the LOVE sculpture to its original colors,” says Berg.
Apparently, she says, Indiana had visited the city in the mid-90’s and noticed the color change. Neither he nor his representatives responded to a request for comment but their request to correct the colors suggests that he was not pleased.
Berg says the color change was a result of incorrect information in the city’s file of color codes for the statue.
“The information that we had on file was what we had,” she says, “and we did not have any photographs or other evidence about a purple.”
Now that it’s been pointed out, though, evidence abounds.
Berg says she confirm that the original was purple, both with the fabricator– “and we know it’s the right LOVE sculpture because it has a stamp on the side and they’re each numbered and it was the only 6 foot LOVE that was fabricated in 1975”– and with photographic evidence from Temple’s archive, which had a picture of the statue from the bicentennial.
And then there is a statement from Indiana, himself, she has come across since learning the original was purple.
“The artist, at the time, said Philadelphia’s LOVE was the only purple sculpture that he made,” says Berg, “so it’s an even more unique part of his collection than we originally thought.”
The sculpture is currently being painted but will be ready to go back to its place as the focal point of its namesake park in November. The Park, too, is being renovated but Parks Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell says it will unofficially open so that it can once again host the Christmas Village this year.