Robert Indiana (b. 1928)
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Robert Indiana (b. 1928)


Robert Indiana (b. 1928)
stamped with the artist's name and inscription 'ROBERT INDIANA COENTIES SLIP' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas
24 x 24in. (61 x 61cm.)
Painted in 1965
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 20 November 1997, lot 315.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
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Lot Essay

'I am an American painter of signs charting the course. I would be a people's painter as well as a painter's painter' (Indiana, quoted in C. J. Weinhardt, Jr., Robert Indiana, New York 1990, p. 79).

With this in mind, Indiana's Three bursts with life, with a colourful authority that appears to derive both from the striking vigour of advertising and from the crisp logos of companies and insignia of the military that make up so much of the modern world's iconography. With its all-American, football-shirt simplicity, Three explodes in our consciousness with a great certainty, driven there by Indiana.

The role of numbers in Indiana's iconography derive partially from the examples of his predecessors such as Demuth and Johns. However, where the latter took numbers as a subject precisely for their lack of subjective meaning, for their mathematic precision and their arbitrary appearance in the context of art, Indiana selected them precisely because for him, numbers did have meaning. During his youth, his mother apparently refused to live in one house for more than a year. The house numbers that therefore trailed through Indiana's personal history became integral to his spiritual and emotional reaction to them. The digits that appear in his paintings are filled with purpose; they are the very building blocks of our existence, in terms of the numerical organisation of so many entities and facets in our everyday life the floor we live on, the street number, the bus number, the phone number... and also in terms of the more arcane aspects of numerology that have fascinated the artist. Thus the bold emblazoned numeral 3 here is a landmark, a multi-layered modern information saint replacing the allegories and personification that filled the iconographies of old. It is the endemic nature of the numerals in our life, and the democratic interest in the theme that this implies, that prompts Indiana to celebrate them in works such as the bold, colourful, energetic Three.

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