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A MULTI-MILLION dollar artwork by the iconic Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha, 75, has been acquired by the Art Gallery of NSW.

The work is titled Gospel, and was such a favourite of Ruscha’s that it remained in his private collection after he created it in 1972. The work has never had any other owner.

Ruscha made Gospel from a piece of raw canvas on which the word Gospel has been painted in black.

A number of real arrows pierce the painted word, which runs diagonally across the canvas.

The acquisition was funded on a 50-50 basis by the Art Gallery Society of NSW and Ruscha himself. No government money was used for the purchase.

It was the Art Gallery Society which invited Dr Brand, the gallery’s director, to choose an artwork to celebrate his appointment last year as director of the gallery.

Dr Brand said the work’s significance was on a par with the gallery’s 2004 purchase of Cy Twombly’s Three studies from the Temeraire, for which it paid $4.5 million, and a work by Richard Serra which cost $3.7 million.

Both those works were acquired when Edmund Capon was director of the AGNSW.

Chris Sabian is a portrait artist with http://www.kutefineart.com and owner of http://www.paragonprints.co.uk