Christie’s to auction Clarke Collection, including 35 Ed Ruscha artworks

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937-), Standard Station (Engberg 5), screenprint in colors. Executed in 1966. Estimate: $200,000 – $300,000. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2019

NEW YORK – Christie’s has announced it will auction The Clarke Collection, an exceptional selection of Post-War & Contemporary Art featuring 35 pristine works by Edward Ruscha. The collection of works on paper, prints, sculpture, and design will be offered across several New York sales throughout the fall beginning with a single artist sale, Thirtyfive Works by Ed Ruscha from The Clarke Collection, preceding the Post-War to Present sale on September 27. This will be followed by the Prints & Multiples sale in October, Post-War & Contemporary Art Day sale in November, and the Design sale in December. Highlights by Ed Ruscha to be offered in September include A Person Who is Very Nice, executed in 1988 (estimate: $500,000 – $700,000), 3 Forks, executed in 1967 (estimate: $400,000 – $600,000), and Wavy Robot, executed in 1975 (estimate: $400,000 – $600,000).

Additional highlights of The Clarke Collection to be offered throughout the fall include Vija Celmins’ Untitled (Long Ocean #5), executed 1973 (estimate: $1.5 – 2 million), Andreas Gursky’s PCF, Paris, executed in 2003 (estimate: $300,000 – $500,000),Ken Price’s Slate Cup II, executed in 1972 (estimate: $200,000 – $300,000), Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s ‘Hogestoel’ Chair, 1960(estimate: $30,000 – $50,000), and Donald Judd’s Frame Chair, no. 72 (estimate: $20,000 – $30,000).

Clarke’s globally-renowned firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, which he established with the late Argentine-American architect César Pelli, designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (once the tallest building in the world), Canary Wharf in London, the World Financial Center in New York, the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, and The International Finance Centre in Hong Kong.

Laura Weir Clarke and Fred Clarke

The Clarke Collection represents Laura and Fred Clarke’s lifelong passion for self-discovery through art. After moving from their native Texas to Los Angeles in the mid-Sixties, the Clarkes quickly immersed themselves in California’s dynamic cultural scene. So curious to enrich their knowledge, they would occasionally knock on studio doors of artists whose work they admired in order to get a closer look at their creative process. The young couple eventually found themselves surrounded by progressive minds who would influence and inspire them from artists Chris Burden and Larry Bell to gallerist Margo Leavin and architect Frank Gehry.

The Clarkes’ interest in Ed Ruscha’s work began during that time with the discovery at Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood of a book called “Some Los Angeles Apartments” for only $4 “years before we could afford to start buying,” explained Fred Clarke. “We could buy an extraordinary work of art for just a few dollars. I was a collector before I was a buyer. To be a buyer you have to have money, but to be a collector all you really need is to look and to do the work. It’s not about cost, it’s about value.”

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937-), I Was Gasping For Contact, pastel on paper. Executed in 1976. Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

From the beginning, the Clarkes had a deeply emotional connection to Ruscha’s iconic Pop Art imagery and saw the images, attitudes, ideas, and atmosphere of the artist’s work connected to their own journey. Driving between Texas and Los Angeles the pair encountered many instances of long, flat roads and endless horizons, which are often reflected in Ruscha’s work.

Similarly, the artist was influenced by his own trips along Route 66 from California to visit family in Oklahoma where he, too, was captured by the seemingly endless stretches of bleak pavement punctuated by angular gas stations, which ultimately served as inspiration for his Standard Station series. This parallel experience inspired the Clarkes’ love affair with Ruscha’s art and launched a collection that eventually grew to include great works by other contemporary artists including Tony Smith, Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Ken Price, and Donald Judd.

But at the heart of the couple’s collecting has always been a deep respect for and admiration of the artists’ craft. At their home in New Haven, Conn., the couple constructed a custom-designed set of racks to carefully house their prized collection where they preferred to visit it at whim rather than have it all on continual display. “What I realized a long time ago was that if I see something every day, I actually stop looking at it,” noted Fred Clarke. “There’s a difference between seeing and looking.”

A portion of proceeds from the sale of The Clarke Collection will be used by the family’s charitable trust to support several educational institutions that have had an impact on the couple and their sons.

Click here to view Christie’s conversation with Laura and Fred Clarke. Click to visit Christie’s online.

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