Gagosian is opening the second season of its Artist Spotlight series with works by Ed Ruscha. The online exhibition follows a successful run launched in the Spring, selling newly made works by Jenny Saville, Mark Bradford and Mark Grotjahn, among others. The announced sales totaled more than $10 million, but Gagosian representatives report the total achieved across the series is far higher. The success of the Ruscha sale, where all of the works on paper were sold before the show opened, suggests the biggest names in art are having no problem finding buyers.
Gagosian reported it had placed all five of the works with buyers, each made this year and priced at $95,000, shortly after unveiling them for the 48-hour viewing window. Another work titled Real Research, revealed by the dealer on September 20th, was also sold.
The new works by Ruscha feature the artist’s recognizable blurred text on neutral grounds with short phrases like “Riot Box” and “At That.” The paint of the typeface appears smeared, which according to the gallery’s statement recalls an ever-moving state of text in the digital sphere. They draw on Ruscha’s “ribbon” drawings made in the late 1960-70s, featuring single-words like “City,” and “Sin” coiled like fabric. In his next phase, Ruscha developed an airbrush look that gave his words a signature fogginess.
According to Gagosian Director Sam Orlofsky, the Artist Spotlight series originated as a direct response to the closure of live exhibitions across the gallery’s international spaces. Now, the series has developed into a lucrative additional online sales channel meant to serve as an extension of the in-person showcases. Taking cues from the marquee auctions and innovations in the online sale sector during the coronavirus pandemic, the series’ first season focused one artist per week. The first series spanned 14 weeks. Now, as the experiment develops, Gagosian has changed the scheduled programming to an artist featured for one week, once a month.
“When the crisis hit it was a unique challenge to come up with a program that would stand out” said Alison McDonald, Gagosian’s Director of Publication. Alongside the sales team, McDonald heads the editorial programming for the series and developed material around each artwork says the first iteration was fruitful in attracting buyer attention.
“We decided to take a different approach, which was to really go in-depth on a single artist each week” said McDonald. With a robust editorial team, the dealer was able to adapt quickly to meet demand during the pandemic. According to both McDonald and Orlofsky, the experiment brought in more interest beyond the single work, allowing more deals to take place. “We found that we were able to sell more work and examples of related works by the artist than just the one” said McDonald.
[This article was updated on September 21 to reflect the sale of another work in the grouping unveiled on September 20 titled ‘Real Research’]