Investor Alert

Oct. 5, 2020, 3:02 p.m. EDT

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

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

Offered at Christie’s Post-War and contemporary art evening sale on Oct. 22—a live event in London—the painting is expected to fetch between £11 and £18 million (US$14 million and US$23 million).

“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, and the proceeds will be used to ensure that the world’s greatest artists can once more return to our stages,” Alex Beard , chief executive of the Royal Opera House, said in a statement Monday.

A major performing arts venue in London, the Royal Opera House is currently open for select events with advanced bookings. It also streams online opera,  music, ballet, dance performances, and festivals.

Portrait of Sir David Webster was painted in 1971 in Hockney’s studio, with the subject sitting on a Mies van der Rohe ‘MR’ chair before a glass table. Light passes through glass and reflects off curved stainless steel. Half of the large canvas was devoted to a blushing vase of tulips, the artist’s favorite flower.

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

A renowned opera enthusiast, Hockney designed sets from 1975 until 1992 for venues including Glyndebourne in the English countryside, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Royal Opera House itself. 

The British-born Hockney, who has 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 at a Christie's New York auction in November 2018 for US$90 million, setting a price record for a living artist. The record was broken by Jeff Koons with his sculpture Rabbit, which sold for more than US$91 million at Christie’s in New York in May 2019.

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