Menzies Art Brands



In 2008, Robert Indiana lent his name and his work to the snowballing presidential campaign of Barack Obama. The artist had already been sketching out ideas for a new series, one that drew on the name of his home studio, Star of Hope, and one that adopted the form of his most popular work, LOVE, from four decades earlier. When the charismatic young senator exploded onto the political scene, Indiana was transfixed like so many other Democrats across America. He watched Obama in action, read his book, listened to his speeches, and it wasnt long before he felt moved to attach his design to this stirring new conversation of optimism and change.1

Indiana, a child of the Depression, a faithful student of the American vernacular, had been threading a patriotic art of social engagement in his work for years.2 He modelled HOPE on an artwork that had gone viral, to use a contemporary expression, in the years since he turned it into a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1965.

LOVE, its second letter tilted to the right, had been harnessed to a period of optimism that fizzled out as fast as it had appeared. Now with Obama, HOPE was the four-letter word du jour. Indiana oversaw multiple variations, including these screenprints with their four sets of colours. A six-foot tall version, in stainless steel, was installed outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver. An earlier version, in metal, was installed outside his home, known as the Star of Hope, on the remote island of Vinalhaven, Maine. This was where the artist had moved in 1978, a refuge from the New York scene where he had made his name alongside other Pop innovators.

Before his death in 2018, friends and associates had noticed Indiana had been withdrawing from the world. Even so, a committed Democrat, he remained engaged with the social evolution of his country. As Obama continued to rise in the polls against his Republican challenger, Indiana explained why he had decided to turn hope into art. There might be a chance we survive eight years of Bush, I dont know. Thats where the hope comes in.3 In step with the time, of course, but words that seem quaint when considered against recent and turbulent events.


1. Ebony, D., The Perennial Optimist: Robert Indiana, Art in America, 24 February 2009 (accessed October 2022):
2. Minioudaki, K., From His Story to History: Robert Indianas Patriotic Art of Social Engagement, in Robert Indiana: New Perspectives, Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012
3. From LOVE to HOPE: Pop Artists Latest Image Inspired by Obama, The Seattle Times, Seattle, 31 August 2008 (accessed October 2022):


Ashleigh Wilson
Ashleigh Wilson is the author of Brett Whiteley: Art Life and the Other Thing (Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2016).


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