An inventory of the artwork left behind in the Vinalhaven home of Robert Indiana uncovered additional pieces – including at least one of his iconic “LOVE” sculptures – nearly doubling the estate’s estimated value to $50 million, as well as more than two dozen missing works, according to the renowned artist’s lawyer.

The discoveries in the ongoing appraisal add to the mystery that has surrounded Indiana’s death in May. The cause of his death has yet to be determined by the medical examiner. A lawsuit filed the day before the reclusive artist died alleged art fraud and elder abuse by his closest associates. In the following days, island residents reported seeing a flurry of activity around his home, including the removal of artwork. An upcoming court hearing in Rockland will attempt to determine the location of as many as 28 pieces of unaccounted-for art.

Rockland attorney James Brannan said Indiana’s historic home, a former Odd Fellows hall called Star of Hope, has about 580 pieces of “major artwork” and thousands of prints, some of which Indiana signed. Among them are about 25 sculptures, including “LOVE,” the widely replicated piece that launched him into fame in the 1970s. “There are things we have uncovered we didn’t know existed or didn’t expect to find,” said Brannan, declining to give additional details.

Robert Indiana

An appraiser is in the process of going through the contents of the house and faces a late-August deadline to complete the work. People who have spent time in the house over the years say Indiana kept many important paintings there, including “Mother and Father,” a two-panel homage to his parents, as well as early portraits and many significant prints.

SUIT ALLEGES FRAUD, EXPLOITATION

Indiana died on May 19 at age 89 at his home on the Penobscot Bay island. Six weeks later, a formal inquiry into the cause of death is ongoing, said Mark Belserene, administrator for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta. “At this time, all I can say is the medical examiner assigned to the case decided to run additional lab tests to be thorough, this is taking longer than usual,” he wrote in an email Friday morning.

The day before he died, Indiana, his personal assistant Jamie Thomas and art publisher Michael McKenzie, with whom Indiana forged a professional relationship, were named in a federal lawsuit filed in New York accusing them of art fraud and forgery. In addition, the suit alleges that Thomas and McKenzie isolated and exploited Indiana.

Soon after Indiana’s death, a representative from the FBI was on the island conducting interviews. The bureau has declined to confirm whether it is looking into Indiana’s death or claims of fraud.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Morgan Art Foundation, which also had a longstanding professional relationship with Indiana involving the promotion of his artwork. The suit alleges that the foundation’s financial interest and stake in Indiana’s artwork were diminished because of Indiana’s relationship with McKenzie and his company, American Image Art.

It also accuses Thomas and McKenzie of multiple counts of trademark and copyright infringement, alleging that they created fraudulent artwork under Indiana’s name, including a series of prints that were displayed at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston in 2016. It also alleges that Thomas commandeered Indiana’s email account and sent profanity-laced emails under Indiana’s name.

A conference on the federal lawsuit is scheduled for July 23 in New York. Meanwhile, Brannan and his attorneys are preparing for the hearing on Aug. 15 in Knox County Probate Court to determine the whereabouts of the 28 missing pieces of art. That number represents pieces of art from recent exhibitions that were listed as being owned by Indiana in exhibition catalogs but were not found in the Star of Hope, Brannan said.

Because they are missing does not mean they were stolen, he said.

“They may have been sold. We are trying to find records,” Brannan said. “That’s what the hearing is about.”

HEARING MAY SHED SOME LIGHT

At the hearing, Thomas, who was given power of attorney by Indiana in May 2016, also will be questioned about finances related to Indiana’s estate, Brannan said. Indiana left his estate to support the nonprofit Star of Hope Inc. The organization will be tasked with turning his home and studio into a museum once the estate and will are settled, a process being monitored by the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Indiana’s will stipulated that Thomas will run the museum. Indiana’s estate includes Star of Hope, two other island properties, his art collection and other assets.

Thomas, McKenzie and representatives of the Morgan Art Foundation are expected to attend the Aug. 15 hearing.

Brannan said he looks forward to learning what they have to say. The court has allowed all day for the hearing, he noted.

“It should be an interesting day, and hopefully we’ll get some information we can use to complete the inventory,” Brannan said. “We were able to get it scheduled when people would be happy to come to Maine, answer some questions and have some lobsters.”

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes

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