The Christmas Village at LOVE Park

When the LOVE statue is finally ready to be displayed again in spring 2018, you’re going to notice something different. Very different.

It turns out that for the last 30 years, the outside of the statue’s letters have been the wrong color. They were blue, when really they should have been be purple. So for the restoration of LOVE Park, the city is taking the opportunity to correct the mistake.

“We’re very excited,” said Margot Berg, public art director for the Office of Arts and Culture. “It really is a full restoration.”

Since 1988, Berg said, the statue has been painted red, blue and green. But that’s not how sculptor Robert Indiana originally designed the piece of art. He intended for the outside of the letters to be painted purple.

The mishap can be attributed to an error during a restoration process. In 1988, Berg said, the LOVE statue, like now, was undergoing renovations and needed a fresh coat of paint. Restorations like these rely on “paint codes” from the sculptor (or a sculptor’s representative) so that the people in charge of refreshing the statue have a guide to the artist’s original intent. In this case, apparently either the fabricator working on behalf of Indiana or the subcontractor got the wrong code information, and the LOVE statue came back to Philadelphia blue.

“The sculpture was so faded at that point, 12 years in,” Berg said. “I guess the colors had significantly lightened that maybe when it came back in a different color the public maybe didn’t necessarily notice.”

The Office of Arts and Culture learned of the mistake a few weeks ago. With the LOVE statue stripped and ready to be repainted, representatives from Indiana called and explained the true colors for the statue were red, purple and green, not red, blue and green.

They’re definitely not mistaken. A 1978 photo of the LOVE statue from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin shows the LOVE statue in its former purple glory.

Credit: Philadelphia Evening Bulletin via Temple Libraries

A representative for Indiana did not respond to a request for comment. None of his other statues, located in Amsterdam and New York among other places, feature purple. Berg can’t remember where she saw it, but definitely recalls a quote from Indiana in which he says the purple made the Philadelphia statue special and he was pleased with the color.

Berg hopes Philadelphians are, too.

“I think they are going to love the new LOVE purple,” she said. “For some, it’s hard for people to change… .The fact that it is now a happy story of it being completely restored back to the way the artist intended is, all in all, a good thing.”

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...