On Robert Indiana in Venice

The Sweet Mystery

Museum Exhibitions

Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents Robert Indiana: The Sweet Mystery, an official Collateral Event of the 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia.

On view in the historic and central Procuratie Vecchie, recently restored by Pritzker-prize winning architect David Chipperfield. Developed with The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, this exhibition offers a revelatory perspective on Indiana’s work, focusing on the central themes of spirituality, identity and the human condition that are key to understanding his creative evolution. Artworks on view span six decades of Indiana’s career and include significant early works, some of which have rarely been publicly displayed.

Simon Salama-Caro, founder and principal of The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, said, “With each passing year, it becomes more and more evident that Bob Indiana was one of our era’s greatest artists. He had the gift of being able to connect deeply with the public zeitgeist, while making complex, innovative, multilayered works of great emotional intensity. It’s wonderful to see Bob’s artistic legacy now being recognized at the Venice Biennale, where his works can be appreciated through a new scholarly lense.”

A preeminent figure in American art, Robert Indiana (1928-2018), widely known for his iconic LOVE series, was an influential leader of Pop who distinguished himself by addressing important social and political issues and incorporating profound historical, literary, and biographical references into his works. The exhibition’s title, The Sweet Mystery, is adapted from one of Indiana’s earliest paintings to incorporate words, a practice that came to define his career.


Installation view, Robert Indiana: The Sweet Mystery, photo by Marco Cappelletti

Clare Lilley, Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park and curator of Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958-2018 (YSP 2022-23), said, “Public reaction to Robert Indiana’s work indicates the continuing relevance of this exceptional artist to new generations of diverse people. Indiana responded to the material world, re-imagining and assembling objects and images into a new language that amplifies political and social concerns, and which calls for unity, acceptance, and love. Indiana’s brilliance was in forging refined yet insistent poetry in precise material form. It is heartening that his work will both engage with the architecture of the Procuratie Vecchie and with new audiences.”

Robert Indiana: The Sweet Mystery, curated by Matthew Lyons, is the most significant presentation to date in Italy of Indiana’s work. The exhibition features more than 40 works including paintings and sculptures, which highlights the artist’s exploration of the human condition and faith in turbulent times. Key works on view include The Sweet Mystery, EAT/DIE, Love is God and The Melville Triptych.

Matthew Lyons said, “This exhibition meticulously navigates Indiana’s masterful use of self-referentiality to delve into profound metaphysical questions about the nature of life. By infusing his works with intricate biographical details, Indiana not only crafts a personal narrative but also underscores enduring ties to past radical American art movements. Through a thematic selection of works, the exhibition serves as a portal, introducing a new generation of viewers to Indiana’s distinctive and transcendental Pop perspective, as they confront their own pressing existential dilemmas in this century.”

The exhibition is on the second floor of the Procuratie Vecchie, while the third floor has been dedicated by Generali to the Home of The Human Safety Net, and its interactive exhibition “A World of Potential”, a hub open to the international community on the themes of social inclusion, innovation and sustainability.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition with new scholarship on the artist’s work with texts by Clare Lilley, Allan Schwartzman and Matthew Lyons.

  • Museum Exhibitions — On Robert Indiana in Venice: The Sweet Mystery, Jan 1, 2024