The Royal Opera is planning to sell David Hockney’s painting to its former boss in an effort to raise money to fill the shortfall caused by the pandemic.
The Sir David Webster painting will be auctioned at Christie’s this month and is expected to be worth £ 18 million.
Current CEO Alex Baird has said it is a “tough call” to sell the image, but there is no alternative if the organization is to survive.
“We have to face the situation we are in … and move beyond this,” he said.
London Place, home of the International Opera and the Royal Ballet, is the UK’s largest artwork.
She says she has lost £ 3 of every £ 5 of her income since the national lockdown forced her to close its doors in March.
Selling Hockney’s board is part of a four-axis plan to help the venue balance the books. There will also be significant redundancy and fundraising appeal for public donations.
In addition, the Opera House has applied for a loan to the Government Cultural Restoration Fund.
“We knew we had to look at whatever assets we had,” said Mr. Bird. “And there’s really only one remarkable note from any and that’s this photo.”
“If we can survive and get over this, then we can return to employing people in the future.”
Sir David Webster ran the Royal Opera House between 1945 and 1970 and played a major role in founding the companies of the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera in Covent Garden.
Hockney was tasked with painting his portrait – which has been stuck in recent years at Covent Garden’s venue – after stepping down in the 1970s.
It depicts Sir David seated sideways, in front of a glass top coffee table and a vase of pink tulips.
According to Christie’s catalog, it was “the first from a rare set of commissions that Hockney completed: he did not accept another until three decades later, when he painted Sir George and Mrs. Mary Christie of Glyndborne in the National Portrait Gallery”.
Mr. Bird said the artist had been notified of the impending sale: “We have a good relationship, but he doesn’t like him very much when any of his works are auctioned.” He told the Observer.
The Royal Opera House reopened in June with a concert broadcast on television, radio and online – but without a live audience.
At the time, Byrd said the venue, along with its many theaters and arts venues, was facing “unprecedented financial pressure”. Mr. Bird was understood to have received a “significant pay cut”, while music director Sir Antonio Pabano forfeited his salary during the lockdown.
Last week, the Royal Opera House announced a limited return to public performances of ballet and opera, to a limited audience, beginning later this month.
Among the productions it hopes to introduce is The Nutcracker, which has been a traditional part of the Christmas program since 1984.
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