Vintage Ed Ruscha painting could fetch $40 million at upcoming auction

Ed Ruscha, 'Hurting the Word Radio #2' (1964)

"Hurting the Word Radio #2" will hit the auction block for the first time next November, as part of Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

This early example of Ruscha's revolutionary "text" paintings features the word "RADIO" spelled out in sunshine-yellow against a vast, sky-blue background, with realistic images of c-clamps distorting the shape of the letters "R" and "O."

"Hurting the Word Radio #2" belongs to a group of seven "c-clamps" works that the American Pop artist created in 1964.

Ruscha first began to include text in his paintings in the late 1950s, when he discovered the oeuvre of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg while studying at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.

"Some artists do roses, but I work primarily with words. We're surrounded by many more words than we are roses," the now 81-year-old Ruscha told Christie's ahead of the sale.

"Hurting the Word Radio #2" was first exhibited in 1964 at the famous Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, which had previously staged the first ever show of fellow Pop artist Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans."

Among the main patrons of the Ferus Gallery were Joan and Jack Quinn, who quickly became keen collectors of Ruscha's work.

The couple acquired "Hurting the Word Radio #2" directly from the artist in 1964, with the painting staying in their private art collection since then.

Now hitting the auction block at Christie's New York, the piece is expected to sell for between $30 million and $40 million, potentially breaking Ruscha's current auction record of $30.4 million.

This hefty price was achieved in November 2014 at Christie's New York, when his large-scale painting "Smash" eclipsed its pre-sale low estimate of $15 million.

Throughout his decades-long career, Ruscha has developed a reputation as a deadpan observer of contemporary society, which caught the attention of renowned art collectors such as Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

"Our November sale will mark the first time that this work has ever been offered at auction, and it is particularly exciting for me on a personal level as 'Hurting the Word Radio #2' has long been on my list of the most desirable works in private hands," Alex Rotter, who is Christie's chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art, said in a statement.

"Hurting the Word Radio #2" will be offered at Christie's New York on November 13 as part of its Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

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