“Reads like a mystery”—PBS News Hour
When reclusive, millionaire artist Robert Indiana died in 2018, he left behind dark rumors and scandal, as well as an estate embroiled in lawsuits and facing accusations of fraud. Here, for the first time, are all the pieces to the bizarre true story of the artist’s final days, the aftermath, the deceptive world that surrounded him, and the inner workings of art as very big business.
“I’m not a business man, I'm an artist,” Robert Indiana said, refusing to copyright his iconic LOVE sculpture in 1965. An odd and tortured soul, an artist who wanted both fame and solitude, Indiana surrounded himself with people to manage his life and work. Yet, he frequently changed his mind and often fired or belittled those who worked with him. By 2008, when Indiana created the sculpture HOPE—or did he?—the artist had signed away his work for others to exploit, creating doubt about whether he had even seen artwork sold for very high prices under his name.
At the time of his death, Indiana left an estate worth millions—and unsettling suspicions. There were allegations of fraudulent artwork, of elder abuse, of caregivers who subjected him to horrendous living conditions. There were questions about the inconclusive autopsy and rumors that his final will had been signed under coercion. There were strong suspicions about the freeloaders who’d attached themselves to the famous artist. “In the final hours of his life,” the author writes, “Robert Indiana was without the grace of a better angel, as the people closest to him covered their tracks and plotted their defenses.”
With unparalleled access to the key players in Indiana’s life, author Bob Keyes tells a fast-paced and riveting story that provides a rare inside look into the life of an artist as well as the often, too often, unscrupulous world of high-end art. The reader is taken inside the world of art dealers, law firms, and an array of local characters in Maine whose lives intersected with the internationally revered artist living in an old Odd Fellows Hall on Vinalhaven Island.
The Isolation Artist is for anyone interested in contemporary art, business, and the perilous intersection between them. It an extraordinary window into the life and death of a singular and contradictory American artist—one whose work touched countless millions through everything from postage stamps to political campaigns to museums—even as he lived and died in isolation, with a lack of love, the loss of hope, and lots and lots of money.
Praise for The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana
“Keyes’ book reads like a mystery, with a cast of art dealers, lawyers, caregivers, and assistants, many of who were treated badly by Indiana, many of whom made a lot of money from their association with him. And his case of death ruled inconclusive by a medical examiner.”
—PBS News Hour
“Engrossing….This hard-hitting exposé of the contemporary art world and one of its controversial figures deserves a wide audience.”
“There are enough characters involved to put a prestige HBO drama series to shame … Keyes’s book intrigues because of the mysteries at its core...”
“Shrewd and riveting…a spellbinding cautionary tale about the tricky business of mixing art with commerce…Keyes approaches his first book with a scholar's attention to detail and a muckraker's doggedness.”
“A highly readable and thoroughly researched piece of investigative journalism. Bob Keyes tackles it squarely and with genuine compassion.”
—Maine Sunday Telegram
“Bob Keyes has constructed an aptly circular narrative to explore Robert Indiana’s LOVE-less hoarding of hurt in a Maine-island fortress worthy of Stephen King or Jeffrey Epstein. Connecting the dots, from Indiana’s classic Sixties stand for art over money, to his later-life King Baby rage at the money-mad art world he believed had gypped him, Keyes’s fast-paced investigation reveals the ever-diminishing forms that Indiana’s grandiose self-deceit took as he seduced ringkissers and faked four-letter remakes, cashing in on the kind of decamillion-dollar grift and plunder that made the artist’s final days a signpost for the too-much-but-never-enough era that is still defrauding LOVE and HOPE.”
—David Michaelis, author of N. C. Wyeth: A Biography
“In this disturbing account of the murky final years of a famous, self-sabotaging artist, Bob Keyes teases out the competing motivations and frequent skullduggery of a jaw-dropping cast of opportunists, takers, frauds, and hangers-on. It reads like a spy novel; I was riveted.”
—Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million Boy
“The Isolation Artist is a scandalously good tale of intrigue set on a remote Maine island and featuring a rogue's gallery of art hucksters, small-town grifters, and self-dealing drug addicts. But the chief rogue in Bob Keyes's masterful investigation is Robert Indiana, a troubled genius who was often more trouble than he was worth and whose death has revealed webs of deceit that Keyes excels in unspinning.”
—Paul Doiron, author of the Mike Bowditch series
“The Isolation Artist is a richly-reported tale of artistic genius undone by extravagance, greed, and age. Bob Keyes has delivered a singular book, revealing all the players and palace intrigue surrounding the life—and controversial death—of American icon Robert Indiana. I’ve been a fan of Keyes’ work for years, and this feels like a book he was born to write, cracking the hard exteriors of the New York City art world and a remote Maine island for the complicated truth within.”
—Michael Paterniti, author of Love and Other Ways of Dying
Bob Keyes has been a journalist for four decades. He is an award-winning, nationally recognized arts writer and storyteller with specialties in American visual arts and the contemporary culture of New England. Keyes has written about arts and culture for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram since 2002. He lives with his family in Maine.