British Airways to sell 17 work from corporate collection in bid to stay afloat

British Airways (BA) is set to auction off 17 work from its 1,500-piece corporate art collection over two auctions at Sotheby’s London this month, as the cash-strapped carrier continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

The sale, featuring mostly British artists including Bridget Riley and Damien Hirst, is expected to fetch a combined £920,000 (HK$9m). Yet, it would still be a drop in the ocean against its drastic losses over the past few months. 

Its parent company International Airlines Group, also the owner of Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, lost £1.5 billion in Q1, with 94% of its flights grounded due to global lockdown. Further losses are expected in Q2 as the pandemic drags on. 

In April, BA announced plans to axe up to 12,000 jobs, or 30% of its workforce, to ease financial stress. A local newspaper reported that the move to auction off parts of its art collection demonstrates BA’s commitment to take all measures possible before slashing jobs. 

Bridget Riley's Cool Edge (1982)|£800,000 – £1.2m

The star lot in the collection goes to British artist Bridget Riley’s 1982 abstract Cool Edge, estimated at £800,000 to £1.2m. The painting was previously displayed in the Concorde Room at the Heathrow airport before being sent to auction.

It is part of the op-art painter's Egyptian Series, inspired by Egyptian tomb paintings she saw during a trip to Egypt in 1981. The rest of the work from this series are residing at the Tate in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Bridget Riley

The stripe painting will be offered at Sotheby’s “Rembrandt to Richter” evening sale in London scheduled on 28 July, while the rest 16 art pieces in the collection, estimated between £800,000 and £1.2m, will be offered at the auction house's online sale of Modern and Post-war British art, slated to run from 20 to 30 July.

Artists being featured at the evening sale include Damien Hirst, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, George Shaw, Marc Quinn, Julian Opie and Peter Doig, alongside a self-portrait by Rembrandt Van Rijn, estimated between £12m and £16m.

Terry Frost's Sunglow|£20,000 – £30,000

Rembrandt's Self-portrait, wearing a ruff and black hat | 21.5 x 16.5cm | £12m – 16m

Read more: Rare £12m Rembrandt self-portrait, made to impress his muse, up for grabs at Sotheby’s London

Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby's London 
Sale: Rembrandt to Richter
Sale date: 28 July, 2020
Lots offered: 70

Sale: Modern and Post-war British art (online auction)
Sale date: 20 – 30 July, 2020