How Philly's 'LOVE' sculpture was painted the wrong color 30 years ago

Since it was repainted in 1988, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture has been photographed millions of times, with its red letters and green and light-blue accents.

It turns out Philadelphia went two for three on that paint job.

A few weeks ago, the city  Office of Arts and Culture discovered that the original colors were actually red, green, and purple.

The mistake came to light after the artist commissioned to repaint the statue contacted Indiana’s agent to verify the paint color codes, according to Margot Berg, the city’s public art director.

“We heard from the artist’s agent and they said that the colors were originally red, green, and purple and requested that the city restore it to its original colors,” Berg said.

How did Philly get it wrong in the first place in ’88? Mother nature might be to blame.

Camera icon JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff photographer
The “LOVE” sculpture as we’ve known it for the last 29 years.

“There’s a newspaper article from the time that said the sculpture’s paint had faded significantly since the 1976 installation date, so it’s quite possible it faded so much that the purple, which is in the blue family, came to look like a light blue,” Berg said.

She wasn’t sure who muffed the 1988 paint job.

Indiana’s agent was not available for comment. But, apparently, Indiana did mention that something was off about his famous work more than two decades ago.

“I was told that the artist visited Philadelphia in 1995 and told his agent that the color had changed,” Berg said. “I don’t think we had the evidence to correct it at the time.”

Indiana has created dozens of LOVE sculptures, but Philadelphia’s (in its original form) was the only one with purple accents, Berg said. “The fact that it was the only purple-colored sculpture that he made – it makes it even more unique and a more interesting story,” she said.

The sculpture will be returned to the park in early 2018. LOVE will again be partly purple. LOVE Park, officially known as JFK Plaza and undergoing a $20 million renovation, will have a soft opening to coincide with the Christmas Village holiday market in December.