By Lina Saigol
A painting by Bridget Riley valued at up to £1.2 million ($1.37 million) will kickoff a sale of British Airways’ corporate art collection as the struggling airline looks to raise cash amid an unprecedented global collapse in passenger demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sotheby’s will offer 17 paintings, prints and works on paper from the British Airways Collection across two auctions in London later this month. The works have been hanging in the airline’s executive lounges and its Waterside headquarters near London Heathrow.
The offering will be led by Riley, who was subject of a recent critically acclaimed retrospective at London’s Hayward Gallery. Cool Edge from 1982, which carries an estimated value of £800,000-£1.2 million, showcases the female artist’s iconic stripe paintings from the 1980s and will be a highlight of Sotheby’s London cross-category Evening Sale, “Rembrandt to Richter,” on July 28.
The auction comes as British Airways, which is owned by IAG /zigman2/quotes/208070069/delayed UK:IAG -2.47% , has been cutting costs, laying off thousands of workers, and parking its fleet to try to avert collapse in the face of an unprecedented travel slump.
IAG’s boss Willie Walsh has said BA is “fighting for survival.” The carrier’s restructuring plan, which includes cutting 12,000 jobs, has come under criticism for its “fire and rehire” tactics and caused MPs across political parties to press U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to review BA’s prized landing slots at airports including Heathrow.
“During this unprecedented time we have made the decision to work with Sotheby’s, one of the world’s leading and most trusted auction houses, to sell a number of pieces by artists including Bridget Riley and Damien Hirst, Carolina Martinoli, BA’s director of brand and customer experience, said.
Sotheby’s online auction of Modern & Post War British Art, scheduled to run between July 20 and 30 will offer seven further screen prints by Riley from The British Airways Collection, including five works from her Elongated Triangles series of 1971. Other works going under the hammer will include Terry Frost and Patrick Heron, as well as prints by Damien Hirst, Julian Opie and Peter Doig.
Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Chairman for Europe, said the “fittingly” British collection presents a roll call of some of the greatest artistic names of the second half of the 20th century.