Jeff Bezos Reportedly Spent More Than $70 Million on a Kerry James Marshall and a Record-Shattering Ed Ruscha at Auction Last Fall

The richest man in the world is now reportedly a major collector.

Jeff Bezos in 2017. Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has apparently burst onto the international art-collecting scene after making some high-profile purchases at New York auctions houses this past fall.

Bezos reportedly bought both Ed Ruscha’s Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) for $52.5 million at Christie’s, which shattered the record price for a work by the artist at auction, and Kerry James Marshall’s Vignette 19 (2014) for $18.5 million at Sotheby’s, according to the Baer Faxt newsletter.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s declined to comment and Amazon’s media relations department did not respond to questions.

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

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

One source told Artnet News that Bezos’s newfound collecting habit reflects the influence of his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, whom he has been dating since divorcing his first wife, MacKenzie, in 2019.

Bezos is the richest man in the world according to Forbes, and has a net worth of over $125 billion.

Josh Baer, the editor of the Baer Faxt, declined to provide further comment to Artnet News. But in a statement issued to Bloomberg, he said: “I stand by what I wrote.” He did not provide any clues as to where he got his information on Bezos’s reported purchases.

Kerry James Marshall, Vignette 19 (2014). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

According to Bloomberg, Bezos was spotted at Sotheby’s New York headquarters during an auction preview in November. The winning bid for Vignette 19 was conveyed by Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s vice president and senior specialist in the books and manuscripts department, on behalf of an anonymous client.

The price for the Kerry James Marshall is the second-highest ever achieved for a work by the artist, under the $21 million paid for Past Times (1997), which also sold at Sotheby’s, in May 2018. That piece was bought by producer and rap mogul Sean Combs.

Meanwhile, the $52.5 million spent on Ruscha’s Hurting the Word Radio #2 broke the auction record for a work by the artist by more than $20 million. The previous record, of $30.4 million, was set at Christie’s New York in November 2014 for the 1963 painting Smash.

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