A Signature Ed Ruscha Text Painting Could Fetch $40 Million at Christie’s Next Month and Shatter the Artist’s Auction Record

The canvas is from the early 1960s.

Ed Ruscha, Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964). Courtesy of Christie's.
Ed Ruscha, Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964). Courtesy of Christie's.

A famed Ed Ruscha painting from the early 1960s will headline Christie’s post-war and contemporary art evening sale next month, the auction house announced today. 

The work, a cornflower blue canvas that depicts the word “Radio” being pulled apart by metal clamps, is expected to fetch between $30 million and $40 million at the sale on November 13, giving it a good chance of breaking the 81-year-old artist’s auction record. 

“This consummate work by Ruscha is an early example of his revolutionary Text paintings, a body of work that established him as one of the most innovative and influential painters of his generation,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of post-war and contemporary art, in a statement. The painting has for years been on his list of the “most desirable works in private hands,” he added.

Wryly titled Hurting the Word Radio #2, the painting was made in 1964 and acquired directly from the artist by collectors Joan and Jack Quinn in the early 1970s. Based in Beverly Hills, Joan and Jack Quinn have been collecting for more than 50 years, amassing during that time a particularly strong assortment of postwar southern California art. 

Ed Ruscha arrives at the 2013 Whitney Gala. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images.

The couple has owned it ever since, making this the first time the painting will have appeared at auction. There’s a good chance the painting will smash Ruscha’s current auction record, which was set in 2014 when his 1963 painting—titled Smash, as it happenswent for $30.4 million at Christie’s New York.

Hurting the Word Radio #2 is a prominent example of Ruscha’s early text paintings, a body of work that, in the 1960s, positioned him next to pop progenitors like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the vanguard of contemporary artists. Other Ruscha paintings to feature trompe l’oeil text distorted by c-clamps are included in institutional collections, such as Hurting the Word Radio #1, which is owned by the Menil Collection in Houston, and Securing The Last Letter (Boss), which belongs to the Museum Brandhorst in Munich.

Ruscha’s painting is on view now through October 4 at Christie’s London. After that, it will travel to New York for Christie’s post-war and contemporary art evening sale on November 13.


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