LOVE statue to leave town for repairs

Philadelphia’s iconic LOVE statue is leaving town for a little while.

The pop art sculpture by Robert Indiana will get a fresh coat of paint and some refurbishing over the next few months before it is reinstalled in a newly renovated John F. Kennedy Plaza, a.k.a. LOVE Park, this summer.

The statue gets whisked away Wednesday after a big Valentine’s Day send-off, put on by the Center City District and complete with a Philadelphia Orchestra performance, flower arranging classes, DJs, and free red roses.

The city moved the statue from LOVE Park to Dilworth Park last February so the public could continue to snap photos with it during the $16.5 million overhaul of LOVE Park. The plan is to add green space, a new water fountain, concession areas, and a renovated welcome center.

This time, the sculpture is traveling a bit farther.

Margot Berg, public art director for the city, said the statue will head to a studio in an undisclosed part of Philadelphia, where it will get an initial inspection. Then it’s off to Rhode Island, where it will be stripped and repainted by Amaral Custom Fabricators.

The total cost of travel, repairs, and insurance, to be paid by the city, is $50,000.

The statue, which was placed in the park in 1976, was last repainted in 1998.

“It’s definitely in need of it again,” Berg said. “There’s a lot of scratches, vandalism, so you see what the damage is to the surface under the paint and where there is corrosion.”

Living next to a fountain for 40 years hasn’t helped, either. The backside of the statue has whitened from the chlorine in the water that splashes it in the summer.

The paint will match the exact colors Indiana used.

The base that holds the sculpture also will change. Berg said Indiana has always preferred that his piece be displayed on a rectangular pedestal, not the more trapezoidal shape currently on display.

The Art Commission has approved of a rectangular base, Berg said, and the office is finalizing dimensions before everything gets put in its proper place this summer.