The numbers are in and Ed Ruscha tops the list of the 10 Most Expensive Living West Coast Artists, according to ArtNet. His Burning Gas Station (1965-66) sold for almost $7 million at Christie’s in 2007. The rest of the list is dominated by L.A.-based artists and includes punk pioneer Raymond Pettibon, master of the abject Paul McCarthy, delightful oddball Charles Ray, and conceptual art godfather John Baldessari.
Paintings are unsurprisingly well represented, ranging from Two Jackpots (2005) by Wayne Thiebaud (who got his start at Disney), to abstract paintings by established L.A. natives Mark Grotjahn and Mark Bradford, to a massive spray-painted canvas by young turk Sterling Ruby. Ruscha’s Ferus Gallery associate Robert Irwin rounds out the list at #10, with a minimal painting of his from 1963-64 that sold for a little over $1 million at Christie’s in 2008. These figures are still quite modest compared to the highest-selling lot by a living artist, Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold for $58.4 million last year.
It should be noted that Artnet based their rankings not on overall sales or even average auction sales, but on the single most expensive piece sold by each artist at auction. Although this would seem to give outliers (and Russian oligarchs) outsize influence over the results, an artist’s value is still largely determined by their auction record, despite the opacity of the auction market.
The results are also further evidence of the gender and racial imbalance of the art market – all of the artists listed above are male and nine are white. After Micol Hebron finishes with her gender tally of the gallery scene, perhaps she should turn her attention to Sotheby’s and Christie’s?