LONDON (Reuters) - London’s Royal Opera House is to sell a 1970s painting by David Hockney as it seeks to raise cash to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst crisis in its history.
Hockney’s Portrait of David Webster will be put up for auction at Christie’s on Oct. 22. It is estimated to be worth between 11 and 18 million pounds ($14-$23 million), the auction house said.
“As we face the biggest crisis in our history, the sale of David Hockney’s wonderful portrait of Sir David Webster is a vital part of our strategy for recovery,” said Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, in a statement.
“The proceeds will be used to ensure that the world’s greatest artists can once more return to our stages.”
In common with other cultural venues across Britain and the world, the Royal Opera House was forced to shut in March as the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak gathered pace, and has been unable to generate revenue since.
Christie’s described the portrait by the octogenarian 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 paint and flair for colour”.
“The staging of this painting feels almost theatrical, which is of course a fitting tribute,” said Katharine Arnold, the auction house’s co-head, Post-War and Contemporary Art Europe.
Webster, the painting’s subject, ran the Royal Opera House from 1945 to 1970. Arnold described him as a visionary leader who helped to make the institution world class.
Beard said the sale was part of the opera house’s four-pronged pandemic recovery plan, which included cost-cutting measures, fundraising from audiences, seeking government support, and realising value from assets.
He said the plan would allow the opera house to “sustain our community of artists through this period, and to ensure we can continue to delight audiences for decades to come with extraordinary ballet, dance, music and opera”.
($1 = 0.7733 pounds)
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Barbara Lewis
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