London’s Royal Opera House to sell Hockney painting to survive COVID crisis

LONDON (Reuters) – London’s Royal Opera House is said to be selling a 1970s painting by David Hockney to raise funds for the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst crisis in its history.

Hockney’s portrait of David Webster will be auctioned at Christie’s on October 22nd. The estimated value is between £ 11 million and £ 18 million ($ 14 million to $ 23 million), the auction house said.

“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,” said Alex Beard, executive director of the Royal Opera House, in a statement.

“The proceeds will be used to ensure that the world’s greatest artists can return to our stages.”

Like other cultural institutions in the UK and around the world, the Royal Opera House was forced to close in March when the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak gained traction and has been unable to generate revenue since then.

Christie’s described the portrait of the eighty-year-old Hockney, considered one of the giants of British art in the 20th and 21st centuries, as “an extraordinary painting that perfectly captures the artist’s mastery of color and his sense of color”.

“The staging of this painting feels almost theatrical, which of course is a fitting tribute,” said Katharine Arnold, co-director of the auction house for post-war and contemporary art in Europe.

Webster, the subject of the painting, directed the Royal Opera House from 1945 to 1970. Arnold described him as a visionary leader who helped make the institution world class.

Beard said the sale was part of the opera’s four-person pandemic recovery plan, which included cost-cutting measures, audience fundraisers, seeking government support and realizing value from assets.

He said the plan would allow the opera house “to maintain our artist community during this time and ensure that we can delight audiences with exceptional ballet, dance, music and opera for decades”.

($ 1 = 0.7733 pounds)

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Adaptation by Barbara Lewis

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