London’s Royal Opera House Selling David Hockney’s Painting to Raise Funds

Courtesy Christie’s

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The Royal Opera House in London is selling David Hockney’s portrait of Sir David Webster, who depicts the Opera House’s former administrator general who was instrumental in its expansion to raise funds to help alleviate the financial impact of the coronavirus on the cultural institution.

The painting, which will be on sale at Christie’s post-war and evening contemporary art sale – a live event in London – on October 22nd, is expected to fetch between £ 11 and 18 million ($ 14 and 23 million).

“In the face of the greatest crisis in our history, the sale of David Hockney’s wonderful portrait of Sir David Webster is an integral part of our recovery strategy. The proceeds will be used to ensure that the world’s greatest artists can return to our stages, ”said Alex Beard, executive director of the Royal Opera House, in a statement on Monday.

The Royal Opera House is a major performing arts venue in London and is currently open for select events by prior arrangement. Online operas, music, ballet, dance performances, and festivals are also streamed.

The portrait of Sir David Webster was painted in Hockney’s studio in 1971, the subject sitting on a Mies van der Rohe ‘MR’ chair in front of a glass table. Light passes through glass and is reflected by curved stainless steel. Half of the large canvas was dedicated to a blushing tulip vase, the artist’s favorite flower.

“The staging of this painting feels almost theatrical, which of course is a fitting tribute,” says Katharine Arnold, Christie’s co-director of post-war and contemporary art in Europe.

A renowned opera lover, Hockney designed sets for venues such as Glyndebourne in the English countryside, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Royal Opera House from 1975 to 1992.

British-born Hockney, who spent many years in Los Angeles, is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. His 1972 work, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), sold for $ 90 million at Christie’s auction in New York in November 2018, setting a record price for a living artist. The record was broken by Jeff Koons with his Rabbit sculpture, which sold for more than $ 91 million at Christie’s in New York in May 2019.

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