Robert Indiana’s EAT Sculpture Returns to the Farnsworth Art Museum

  • ROCKLAND, Maine
  • /
  • April 05, 2019

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Robert Indiana's 1964 EAT sits atop the roof of the Farnsworth Art Museum

The Farnsworth Art Museum, in Rockland, Maine, is pleased to announce the reinstallation of artist Robert Indiana’s 1964 EAT sculpture atop the museum’s roof over the Museum Store at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. The sculpture, which has recently undergone renovation, is scheduled to be reinstalled on Tuesday, May 7.

The EAT sculpture was commissioned by the renowned American architect Philip Johnson for the exterior of the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, New York. Indiana’s work is a twenty by twenty foot electrified metal sculpture, consisting of five six-foot diameter disks spelling out the word EAT. The piece was an instant hit in a most unexpected way. The presence of Indiana’s EAT sculpture at the NY State Pavilion induced long lines of fair-goers to line up outside the building, thinking, wrongly, that there was a restaurant inside. The confusion led the fair administrators to turn off the lights just a few days after the piece was installed. It was not exhibited in public again until the Farnsworth’s 2009 Robert Indiana show, and has been installed again every year since then.

Indiana’s choice of the word “eat” as the subject for his sculpture had special meaning for him. In 1949, while serving in the Army Air Corps and stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, he was called back to Columbus, Indiana to attend to his gravely ill mother. When he arrived, he was shocked by his mother’s wasted appearance. Upon seeing her son, she awoke from her weakened state and asked if he had anything to eat, the last words she spoke to him before she died. 

Like many other images in Indiana’s work, the subject of EAT is both deeply personal and profoundly universal. He has often said that his art is primarily autobiographical. In the early 1960s EAT became the subject of one of his small, totem-like wooden sculptures, paintings, and, eventually, his commission for the 1964 World’s Fair. That same year Indiana also collaborated with Andy Warhol on the film EAT, a twenty-plus minute portrait of Indiana eating a mushroom, slowed down by Warhol to run forty-plus minutes, shot in Indiana’s third floor studio at 25 Coentjes Slip in lower Manhattan.

The reinstallation of EAT is made possible thanks to the generous support of Edith R. Dixon. The restoration of EAT, funded by the estate of Robert Indiana, was completed by Ron Harvey of Tuckerbrook Conservation, in Lincolnville, Maine. To celebrate the return of EAT to the Farnsworth, the museum will be presenting a talk on EAT by Chief Curator Michael K. Komanecky on Friday, May 10, at 3 p.m. in the Farnsworth auditorium. For more information, please visit

David Troup
Farnsworth Art Museum

Farnsworth Art Museum
16 Museum Street
Rockland, Maine
About Farnsworth Art Museum

Celebrating Maine’s Role in American Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum offers a nationally recognized collection of works from many of America’s greatest artists. With 20,000 square feet of gallery space and over 10,000 works in the collection, there is always something new on view at the Farnsworth. The museum houses the nation's second-largest collection of works by premier 20th-century sculptor Louise Nevelson. Its Wyeth Center exclusively features works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. The Farnsworth's library is also housed in its Rockland, ME, campus. Two historic buildings, the Farnsworth Homestead and the Olson House, complete the museum complex.

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