Under The Hammer: Top Prices Paid For Ed Ruscha At Auction

Written by - MyArtbroker
Wall Rocket by Ed RuschaWall Rocket © Ed Ruscha 2013)

The market value of Ed Ruscha’s work since 2000 has skyrocketed, making his art on the secondary market a sound investment, as his editions typically sell for US$40,000 each.

Ruscha’s most expensive work, Hurting the Word Radio no.2 realised US$52 million in 2019, cementing him as a key player in the contemporary art scene, and making an Ed Ruscha print a coveted asset.

Here we list the most expensive Ruscha works to sell at auction:

£40.9M for Hurting The Word Radio No.2

(US$52,485,000)

Hurting The Word Radio No.2 by Ed RuschaImage © Christie's / Hurting The Word Radio 2 © Ed Ruscha 1964)

In November of 2019, Hurting The Word Radio No. 2 (1964) became the most expensive work of art by ex-commercial artist and foremost proponent of the American Pop Art movement, Ed Ruscha (pronounced roo-shay). 

It realised an astonishing US$52.4 million at Christie’s New York, an early example of Rusha’s text-based paintings, the record-breaking piece sets the word ‘RADIO’ against a bright blue background. Despite its concern with bold, simple text, the piece’s rendering of this word is far from simple; ‘hurting’ it with a pair of vices, Ruscha constricts and twists the text, providing his own unique take on the visually arresting iconographies of American consumer capitalism in the process.

£19.2M for Smash

(US$30,405,000)

Smash by Ed Ruscha Image © Christie's / Smash © Ed Ruscha 1963)

In November 2014, a 1963 work by onetime commercial artist and foremost member of the US Pop Art movement, Ed Ruscha, broke a record. Entitled Smash, the artwork realised US$30,405,000 at Christie’s auction house in New York, becoming the 2nd most expensive Ruscha piece of all time. An early example of the artist’s text paintings, it is emblazoned with the words ‘SMASH’, and references the bold, typographic basis of American commercial advertising of the 1950s and 60s. In doing so, it is imbued with Ruscha’s own origins as a member of the art department at a major Los Angeles advertising agency.

£18.2M for Annie

(US$22,975,000 )

Annie by Ed Ruscha Image © Christie's / Annie © Ed Ruscha 1966)

Annie is one of American Pop Artist Ed Ruscha’s most iconic works. On the 10th July 2020 it realised an enormous US$22,975,000 at auction at Christie’s New York, making it Ruscha’s 3rd most expensive work to-date. Annie showcases the painterly origins of another of Ruscha’s later works, Annie, Poured From Maple Syrup (1966), a mixed-media piece that once graced the walls of the Norton Simon museum in Ruscha’s adoptive home of California. An early work – and turning point – in Ruscha’s œuvre, Annie recreates the logo of American comic strip, Annie (1962). According the simple text a monumental stature, the work measures nearly six feet in height.

£15.1M for Cold Beer Beautiful Girls

($18823400)

Cold Beer Beautiful Girls by Ed Ruscha Cold Beer Beautiful Girls © Ed Ruscha 1993)

On 19 May 2022, Ed Ruscha's 1993 Cold Beer Beautiful Girls achieved £15.1 million during the Contemporary Evening Auction in Sotheby's, New York, exceeding its lowest presale estimate of £12 million. Initially sold at Christie's in November 2002 for USD$537,500, the 2022 auction certainly outperformed by close to thirty times the sale at Christie's Post-War And Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

£15.0M for Ripe

(US$20,000,000)

Ripe by Ed RuschaImage © Christie's / Ripe © Ed Ruscha 1967)

In November 2021, an iconic work by king of bold text Ed Ruscha, entitled Ripe (1967), sold for an outstanding US$20,000,000 at Christie’s auction house in New York. An oil on canvas piece, its focus is a single word: ‘ripe’. An example of Ruscha’s so-called ‘liquid paintings’, the work possesses three-dimensional, photorealist qualities due to its preoccupation with what appear to be pieces of fruit. An early work by Ruscha, a foremost proponent of the US Pop Art movement, it foretells of the artist’s later experimentations with diverse ‘found’ media, such as maple syrup and chocolate.

£6.4M for I Tried To Forget To Remember

(US$8,237,000 )

I Tried To Forget To Remember by Ed Ruscha Image © Christie's / I Tried To Forget To Remember © Ed Ruscha 1986)

Exceeding its pre-sale estimate by over US$1 million, US Pop Artist Ed Ruscha’s I Tried To Forget To Remember realised US$8,237,000 at Sotheby’s New York in May of 2019. A riff on the 1955 Elvis Presley song, I Forgot To Remember To Forget, the piece is part of Ruscha’s City Lights series, and is a prominent example of his signature text-based approach.

In the image, three lines of text are layered over an impressionistic depiction of city lights. Arranged in such a way as to suggest their being viewed from above on a dark night, the piece is imbued with a sense of all things cinematic. Likely born of the artist’s time spent as a commercial artist in Los Angeles, where he rubbed shoulders with the graphic iconographies of Tinseltown, the piece possesses an appeal product of 1950s billboards and all things Hollywood.

£5.0M for Brave Man's Porch

(US$6,550,400 )

Brave Man's Porch by Ed Ruscha Image © Sotheby's / Brave Man's Porch © Ed Ruscha 1996)

In November 2017, US Pop Artist Ed Ruscha’s 1996 painting Brave Man’s Porch realised a stunning US$6,550,400 at auction. The sale, which took place at Sotheby’s New York, broke a record for Ruscha, and made this work the 7th most expensive of his to-date.

Depicting the hazy silhouette of a Grecian portico much like that of the Acropolis in Athens, the painting combines typography and almost photographic likeness. Adorning the piece’s surface are 6 words, arranged in a configuration reminiscent of a Snellen Chart. Produced in 1996, Brave Man’s Porch makes use of the sfumato technique, pioneered by Renaissance-era painters such as Leonardo Da Vinci.

£4.5M for That Was Then, This Is Now

(US$5,774,650)

That Was Then, This Is Now by Ed Ruscha Image © Sotheby's / That Was Then, This Is Now © Ed Ruscha 1989)

November 2018 saw the Ed Ruscha painting That Was Then, This Is Now (1989) realise US$5,774,650 at auction at Sotheby’s New York. The painting is a standout example of Ruscha’s text-based work, and features bold typography and an almost photorealistic depiction of clouds.

Much like Brave Man’s Porch (1996), the 7th most-expensive work by Ruscha to-date, That Was Then, This Is Now makes use of the sfumato technique, a painting methodology consistent with softening the transition between colours to mimic the vision of the human eye. This technique was used perhaps most famously by Renaissance-era painter Leonardo Da Vinci for his 14th-century painting, the Mona Lisa.

£3.8M for Dear Friend

(US$4,928,500)

Dear Friend by Ed Ruscha Image © Christie's / Dear Friend © Ed Ruscha 1989)

Dear Friend is a 1989 painting by US Pop Artist and ex-commercial artist, Ed Ruscha. In May 2019, the work realised US$4,928,500 at Christie’s New York, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of US$2,500,000-$3,500,000 by over US$1 million. Referencing Ruscha’s time as an artist in the design department of a commercial advertising agency in Los Angeles, a city home to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the epicentre of the American film industry, the painting makes use of typography. Recalling that of the world-famous Hollywood sign, this textual device bears the words ‘A Dear Friend of Many People’, and sits in front of a depiction of the sky.


£3.5M for OK

(US$5,402,000 )

OK by Ed RuschaImage © Christie's / OK © Ed Ruscha 1990)

In May 2015, this simple-yet-effective work by the father of the US Pop Art scene Ed Ruscha realised US$5,402,000 at auction at Christie’s New York. Exceeding its pre-sale estimate of US$3,000,000-US$4,000,000 by over £1.4 million, the work is a testament to the continued strength of Ruscha’s work in the global art and investment markets.

Realised in 1990, this particular piece bears the hallmarks of a typical Ruscha work: combining bold, no-nonsense typography and a muted background, gesturally inscribed onto the canvas by way of the Renaissance-era sfumato technique, it speaks to Ruscha’s past. During the 1950s, the Oklahoma native moved to Los Angeles, where he found work in the art department of a commercial advertising company.

£3.4M for Burning Gas Station

(US$6,985,000)

Burning Gas Station by Ed RuschaImage © Christie's / Burning Gas Station © Ed Ruscha 1966)

US Pop Artist Ed Ruscha’s Burning Gas Station (1965-66) is a riff on one of the artist’s most iconic images, Standard Station (1966). Combining Ruscha’s love of text with his longstanding engagement with Americana, the work was put up for sale by collector Kent Logan in November 2007.

At an auction held by Christie’s New York, it was purchased for an amazing US$6,980,000 million by art collector and gallery owner, Larry Gagosian in the same month. Depicting a petrol station on fire, the work references the many journeys Ruscha made by car between his native Oklahoma City, in America’s ‘flyover country’, and Los Angeles, his adoptive home since the mid-‘50s.

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