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Pop Artist’s Estate May Be a Knotted Mess for a Long Time

“Pop artist Robert Indiana had a simple wish: He wanted to transform his island home into a museum to preserve and show his art collection to the public. The reality is far more complicated.”

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The process of sorting out the assets and getting the museum started, may be delayed for at least two years because of a lawsuit that alleges that Indiana’s caretaker and an art publisher took advantage of him and produced forgeries of his work. The pair deny the accusations.

The lawsuit was filed by the company that owns the copyright to several of his most famous works.

The artist died at age 89 in May at his home on Vinalhaven Island, off the coast of Rockland, Maine.

Jamie Thomas, Indiana’s caregiver and power of attorney, acknowledged receiving more than 100 pieces of Indiana’s artworks as gifts over the years. Testimony suggested he was also paid about $490,000 and withdrew $615,000 at the request of the artist during the final two years of Indiana’s life. Thomas also received $35,000 for a car.

Indiana’s will stated that he wanted Thomas to run the museum.

Thomas’ attorney says there’s far more to the story and that more details will be revealed.

After the success of his LOVE sculpture, Indiana retreated to Maine. His desire for solitude was almost as legendary as his art.

Indiana was described as a quirky guy, “Even within the realm of artists,” said Michael McKenzie, the art dealer mentioned in the lawsuit. McKenzie worked with Indiana over the years to print and fabricate his artwork.

The lawsuit raised further questions. An FBI agent investigating possible art fraud has requested an autopsy. The state medical examiner’s office has said that Indiana’s death was not suspicious, although at the current time, the official cause of death is “undetermined.”

As the years went by and Indiana aged, friends became concerned about his well-being.

The attorney for the estate said it is disappointing that it will take so long to fulfill the request made in his will. Transforming his home into a museum and displaying his artwork, is expected to cost about $10 million. The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in a state of disrepair.

Reference: Sioux City Journal (Sep. 12, 2018) “Untangling pop artist Robert Indiana’s estate may take years”

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