The works of the late artist Robert Indiana, best known for his iconic LOVE images, are at the center of a Probate Court case seeking to determine the value of his estate.

ROCKLAND — Attorneys for individuals and organizations connected to the late artist Robert Indiana argued in court Monday that future hearings should be held in closed sessions to protect people’s privacy and the value of some works of art.

Six lawyers appeared in Knox County Probate Court in Rockland and two more participated by telephone to contest the request by attorney James Brannan, who represents Indiana’s estate, for a testimonial hearing to better determine the value of the estate. It is currently estimated to be worth $50 million.

The attorneys also said that the scope and volume of documents being sought by Brannan were too broad.

The disagreement prompted Judge of Probate Carol Emery to postpone a testimonial hearing scheduled for next week. Instead, Emery set a hearing for Sept. 12, when the first scheduled witness will be Indiana’s caretaker, Jamie Thomas of Vinalhaven.

The issue of whether the court hearing will be public has not been decided. Emery asked attorneys to file their arguments on how she could justify such a closure.

The hearing was held on a petition by Brannan to have the court order Thomas, the Morgan Arts Foundation, Michael McKenzie and American Image to provide documentation on any assets they may have that belong to the estate, including contracts for royalties.

Attorney Margaret Minister, who represents Brannan in his role as personal representative of the estate, said her experience has been that closing a hearing is difficult because of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney John Frumer, who represents Thomas, said he was concerned about confidential matters becoming public if the court hearing was open to the media.

Thomas was Indiana’s caretaker in the final years of his life and had the power of attorney for him.

Frumer said he was concerned that if the hearing was public, it could lead to the publication of where specific valuable art pieces are located, and that would pose a safety issue. He also argued that public disclosure of the quantity of existing Indiana artworks could decrease the value of pieces up for sale.

Luke Nikas, attorney for the Morgan Arts Foundation, said the organization had a 30-year relationship with Indiana. She said to document all transactions over those years would be a difficult task, and that asking someone from the foundation to testify next week about all the transactions would have been impossible.

Minister said a testimonial hearing is needed because if the information is sought strictly from a set number of written questions to the various parties, the answers may not be sufficient and the process will slow down. She said by questioning individuals, there can be follow-up questions and the process will be more efficient.

Indiana’s will stipulates that proceeds from his estate be used to restore his home, the Star of Hope on Vinalhaven, to museum quality. The museum would serve as an art environment open to the public for visits, classes and lectures and for the continued preservation of his collection and real estate.

The will directed that Thomas be the executive director of the museum.

One of the attorneys participating by telephone was state Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti. The Maine Attorney General’s Office is monitoring the disposition of the estate because of its size and because a large portion is earmarked for a charity.

Indiana died of natural causes at his home May 19 at the age of 89. He is best known for his iconic LOVE images.

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