Ruscha’s $2.5 M. Text Work, Last of Series in Private Hands, to Sell at Christie’s

Ed Ruscha, City, with Marbles (1969). Courtesy Christie’s Ltd 2020.

Christie’s has announced the leading lots for its upcoming contemporary art day sale. Works by Ed Ruscha, Albert Gottlieb, Ruth Asawa and Yoshitomo Nara, among others will be offered on October 7th at the house’s New York headquarters.

One of the top works in the group is Ed Ruscha’s City, with Marbles (1969). It is estimated at $2.5 million-$3.5 million. At 20 inches by 24 inches, the oil on canvas work features Ruscha’s coiled typescript against a deep-red two-tone ground reading the word “City,” flanked by two orbiting marbles. The piece is from a series of only three works made between 1968 to 1969. The counterparts titled Lisp (1968) and Sin with Olives (1969) each reside in museum collections; the former was purchased by the National Gallery of Art in 2001; the latter was gifted from the collection of Victoria and Kent Logan to SFMOMA in 1997. The present work was last sold at Christie’s New York in 2007 for $992,000 to the current owner.

Previously, it was in the collection of American oil services tycoon, Pierre M. Schlumberger, who was also a cousin of Houston patron Dominique de Menil. Over four decades, Schlumberger amassed a collection of blue-chip modern and contemporary art including works by Rothko, Matisse and Warhol, 90 works of which were sold at Sotheby’s in 2014.

A formative member of the American pop art movement, Ruscha’s style is widely known for influence taken from cinema, advertisements and visuals from postwar California. Text and cryptic phrases sourced from found materials of the everyday are center in Ruscha’s practice. He began incorporating text into his works around the late 1950s. His text works made in the 1960s are among his most valuable.

Larger high-caliber works from the 1960s, also featuring a single-word composition, have moved up Ruscha’s auction record in recent years. In 2014, his 1963 painting Smash went for $30.4 million at Christie’s New York. Last year, Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) from the collection of Beverly Hills patrons Jack and Joan Quinn sold for $52.2 million.

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