$52.5m Ed Ruscha work achieves new auction record at Christie’s

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Hurting the Word Radio #2, Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York on November 13 closed at a total of $325m, or £253m. This takes the running total for the 20th Century sale season, according to Christie’s to $564.4m.

The Post-War Evening saw a new auction world record price for a work by Ed Ruscha, Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) which saw the hammer fall at $52.5m (including buyer’s premium). This was one of Ruscha’s early ‘text paintings’, which has only had the collectors Joan and Jack Quinn as its previous owners.

A Christie’s representative told Private Art Investor that this was the only work knocked down for more than $50m this week. Christie’s chairman of post-war and contemporary art Alex Rotter, also said: “We wanted to prove we could sell a painting over $50 million this season.”

The second top lot of the evening, at $29.5m was David Hockney’s Sur la Terrasse (1971). This is the first time this work has come to auction and falls within the artist’s top seven auction prices in the past two years. 

Sur la Terrasse, (1971) David Hockney. Courtesy of Christie’s.

According to a Christie’s release, completing the top three was Vogelfluglinie by Gerhard Richter. The large ‘photo painting’ sold for $20.5m.

Vogelfluglinie (1967) by Gerhard Richter

New world auction records were also set for Ellsworth Kelly with Red Curve VII  (1982), which sold for $9,809,000; for Alma Thomas with A Fantastic Sunset, which fetched $2,655,000; and for Charles White with Banner for Willie J, which achieved $1,215,000.

Yves Klein’s Barbara (ANT 113)  sold within its estimate, for $15,597,500, with proceeds going to the Water Academy SRD — a project promoting education and initiatives around responsible and sustainable water culture.

Compared to the $357.6m in sales that Christie’s realized at last November’s edition, 2019’s post-war and contemporary auction was only down about 9%, notes Artnet News. It is also understood that only three of the 54 lots offered at the sale had been sold during the past 10 years.  

Read more about Christie’s 20th Century season here.