New world record for Ruscha in $325.2 million evening sale

Top billing goes to the most important Ruscha painting to come to market in years, Hockney’s break-up masterpiece realises $29.5 million, day sales produce highest total in auction history

The Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York totalled $325,259,750 / £253,317,562, to take the running total for the 20th Century season to $564.4 million. The auction was 89 per cent sold by lot and 96 per cent by value.

Leading the sale was Hurting the Word Radio #2, an important early example of Ruscha’s ‘text’ paintings. Painted in 1964, the same year it was first exhibited at Los Angeles’ Ferus Gallery, the picture was acquired from the artist by Joan and Jack Quinn in the early 1970s.

The couple became friends with the gallery’s stable of artists and keen collectors of their work. They were the only previous owners of Hurting the Word Radio #2, which sold for $52,485,000 (including buyer’s premium) — a new auction record for a work by Ruscha.

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‘This evening was a tribute to the great artist Ed Ruscha and to my beloved husband Jack Quinn,’ said Joan Quinn after the sale. ‘Tonight, I am wearing a jacket by Johnson Hartig of Libertine, designed with Jack and Ed in mind. It’s says “fight club” because they loved to go to the boxing matches together. My family has been blessed to enjoy “Radio” for the last 40 years, and I feel like we have all won tonight.’

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), Hurting the Word Radio #2, painted in 1964. Oil on canvas. 59 x 55¼ in (150 x 140.3  cm). Sold for $52,485,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), Hurting the Word Radio #2, painted in 1964. Oil on canvas. 59 x 55¼ in (150 x 140.3 cm). Sold for $52,485,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

The second highest price of the night was achieved with David Hockney’s Sur la Terrasse. Painted in 1971 in the midst of a break-up, this poignant picture hadn’t been seen in public since being exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1973. It was bought for $29,501,250, continuing a trend that has seen the artist’s top seven auction prices all achieved in the last two years.

Completing the top three was Vogelfluglinie  by Gerhard Richter. This large ‘photo painting’ from the 1960s, which had previously been owned by the German politician Hans Reichelt, sold for $20,478,000.

Franz Kline (1910-1962), Untitled, painted in 1955. Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite. 42 x 33  in (106.6 x 83.8  cm). Sold for $3,375,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Franz Kline (1910-1962), Untitled, painted in 1955. Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite. 42 x 33 in (106.6 x 83.8 cm). Sold for $3,375,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

There was plenty of interest in the works offered from The Collection of Eileen and I.M. PeiBarnett Newman’s Untitled 4, 1950, which was acquired from the artist’s widow in the 1970s, sold for $10,490,000; Franz Kline’s Untitled  (1955) realised $3,375,000; and Willem de Kooning’s Brown and White, executed circa 1947, fetched $1,935,000. 


Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Muhammad Ali, painted in 1977. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. 40 x 40  in (101.6 x 101.6  cm). Sold for $10,036,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Muhammad Ali, painted in 1977. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. 40 x 40 in (101.6 x 101.6 cm). Sold for $10,036,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Richard L. Weisman commissioned Andy Warhol to paint the ‘Athletes Series’ in 1977, and Muhammad Ali — the only yellow example of the eight Ali paintings the artist made — was offered from his collection. Signed by both Warhol and Ali, the work sparked a bidding battle before being bought for $10,036,000. Further pieces from the Athletes Series, and from the Weisman collection, are offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session on 14 November. 

Rashid Johnson (b. 1977), Untitled Anxious Audience, executed in 2018. Black soap and wax on ceramic tiles. 73 x 94¼  in (185.4 x 239.4  cm). Sold for $879,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Rashid Johnson (b. 1977), Untitled Anxious Audience, executed in 2018. Black soap and wax on ceramic tiles. 73 x 94¼ in (185.4 x 239.4 cm). Sold for $879,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

The evening sale opened with strong results for paintings by three exciting contemporary artists. Rashid Johnson’s market has risen quickly in the last 12 months and Untitled Anxious Audience  (2018), a work from his most desirable series, continued that trajectory when it sold for $879,000.

Dana Schutz’s large-scale canvases are in demand right now, and her auction record has already been broken twice in 2019. Shooting on the Air  (2016), which was inspired by the on-air murder of two television journalists in Virginia in 2015, went for $1,095,000. Moments later, Adrian Ghenie’s The Lidless Eye  (2017) sold for $1,335,000 against a low estimate of $400,000. 

   




Dana Schutz (b. 1976), Shooting on the Air, painted in 2016. Oil on canvas. 96 x 90  in (243.8 x 228.6  cm). Sold for $1,095,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Dana Schutz (b. 1976), Shooting on the Air, painted in 2016. Oil on canvas. 96 x 90 in (243.8 x 228.6 cm). Sold for $1,095,000 on 13 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

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 for $15,597,500, with proceeds to benefit the Water Academy SRD — a project promoting education and initiatives around responsible and sustainable water culture.  

The Post-War and Contemporary Art morning and afternoon sessions realised a combined $117,126,225 — the highest day sale total in auction history, taking to the total for Post-War and Contemporary Art to $325,259,750. 

There were a number of records set in the latter, including auction highs for exciting contemporary artists such as Julie Curtiss with Pas de Trois, 2018 ($423,000); Shara Hughes with Georgia, 2007 ($337,500); and Carrie Mae Weems with Kitchen Table Series, executed in 1990 and printed in 2003 ($237,500).