Christie's set a record price for a living artist during its spring sale this year, two years after selling Leonardo de Vinci's Salvator Mundi for US$450 million, the most expensive artwork ever sold. Unless there is an unexpected surge in interest, neither Christie's nor Sotheby's would likely get anywhere near the crazy highs that they have set over the past three years this time around. Instead, the sales, which begin on Monday, are expected to set individual records for artists with lower profiles, with a number of rare works that have never before been offered to the public hitting the auction block.
Auctioneers at Christie's are particularly excited about Hurting the Word Radio #2 by American pop-art artist Ed Ruscha, who has long lived in the shadow of the movement's leader, Andy Warhol. The 1964 painting - considered Ruscha's best work - is priced between US$30 million and US$40 million.
"The market wants to know it has one of the best paintings which is a change from before when it was more like, 'Jeff Koons is hot, I have to have a Koons,' " said Alex Rotter, chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's. "Now it's about, 'I'd rather have the best Ed Ruscha than an average Warhol,' " he added. The previous record for a Ruscha, who lives in California, was US$30.4 million for Smash which sold at auction in 2014.