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Photos: Philly’s LOVE sculpture, from 1976 to today

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How the iconic artwork became such a beloved symbol of the city

Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture is back at LOVE Park.
Photo by Melissa Romero

It’s been repainted, restored, and returned to its rightful home: The LOVE sculpture, an icon of Philly, is back at LOVE Park.

The sculpture by artist Robert Indiana made its debut at the Center City park on Tuesday morning after spending the past year in hiding. While away from public view, it underwent a much-needed restoration by Materials Conservation that uncovered a number of issues, from corroded metal to wrong paint colors.

After being paraded down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, stopping along the way to stand next to other iconic public works of art, the LOVE sculpture was installed at LOVE Park. Today, it has been restored to its original colors of red, green, and purple—not blue, as it was previously and incorrectly painted.

As a way to commemorate its comeback, take a trip down memory lane, through photos, to see how much the work of art has played a role in Philly’s history.

1976

Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture was first brought to Philly in 1976 and displayed on loan as part of the big Bicentennial celebrations. Here, some visitors take some of the first photos with the sculpture, which stands on top of a large granite podium.

Indiana took the sculpture back two years later when the city couldn’t afford to pay its $45,000 price. F. Eugene “Fitz” Dixon, then the owner of the Sixers, offered Indiana $35,000 instead for the sculpture. Indiana accepted and the sculpture was returned permanently to Philly.

1981

Courtesy of Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia

The LOVE sculpture, shown here in 1981, remained in LOVE Park until 1988, when it was removed for its first restoration. At the time, the color codes on file resulted in the sculpture being painted red, green, and blue.

1999

Photo by Dan Loh/Associated Press

Here, the LOVE sculpture is returned to LOVE Park after undergoing its second restoration in 1999. The city is still under the impression that the sculpture’s color codes are red, green, and blue.

2009

Over its long history, the LOVE sculpture becomes a beloved tourist spot and photo-op. It serves as the backdrop for many events, from protests to the annual Christmas Village.

2015

LOVE Park plays host to the annual Christmas Village one last time before closing to undergo renovations. The Christmas Village reopens across the street at Dilworth Park and City Hall in 2016.

2016

By February 2016, LOVE Park enjoys its final days before closing to the public to undergo a multi-million dollar renovation. Days before its groundbreaking, Mayor Jim Kenney reopens LOVE Park to skateboarders one last time, temporarily removing the decades-long skateboarding ban.

The sculpture then makes its way across the street to Dilworth Park, where it remains on display until February 14, 2017, when it is removed from public eye and begins its year-long restoration.

During this time, Indiana’s representative tells the City of Philadelphia that the original colors are actually red, green, and purple—not blue. The proof is in the sculpture fabricator’s records from the 1970s, as well as images taken during the Bicentennial, which show sculpture’s purple paint.

2018

Photos by Melissa Romero

On Tuesday, February 13, the LOVE sculpture is paraded down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, making stops along the way near other important public works of art. It’s installed at LOVE Park onto a new pedestal. It’s now the only LOVE sculpture by Indiana with purple accents.

JFK Plaza / Love Park

1501 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102