Royal Opera House to sell David Hockney portrait for vital funds amid ‘biggest crisis’ in its history

5 October 2020, 11:55 | Updated: 5 October 2020, 12:14

Royal Opera House to David Hockney portrait for vital funds
Royal Opera House to David Hockney portrait for vital funds. Picture: Getty / David Hockney/ Christie's

By Sian Hamer

The portrait of former chief executive Sir David Webster could sell for up to £18 million.

The Royal Opera House is selling a David Hockney portrait to raise vital funds needed to protect the future of the venue, amid the ongoing financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

Christie’s will auction the painted tribute of previous ROH chief executive Sir David Webster on 22 October.

It is expected to fetch between £11m and £18m.

The decision to sell the portrait is part of a four-point plan to keep the opera house afloat during its “biggest crisis” in history. Chief executive Alex Beard describes the move as “a vital part of our strategy for recovery”.

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David Hockney portrait of Sir David Webster
David Hockney portrait of Sir David Webster. Picture: David Hockney/Christie's

“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, we have a four-pronged plan for recovery,” Beard said in a press release.

“A programme of restructuring and staffing cuts, reducing our costs wherever possible; a fundraising campaign from our audiences and supporters to sustain our community of artists, craftspeople and backstage staff; support from Government; and realising such value as we can from our assets.”

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Proceeds made from the auctioned portrait will “ensure that the world’s greatest artists can once more return to our stages,” Beard added.

David Hockney, a Bradford-born painter best known for his serial art, is considered one of the 20th century’s most influential British artists.

Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House earlier this year
Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House earlier this year. Picture: Getty

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The portrait was originally commissioned for the iconic Covent Garden venue in the 1970s.

Sir David Webster ran the prestigious music hall for 25 years from 1945 to 1970.

“We are the biggest arts employer in the country and we knew we had to look at any assets we had,” Beard said. “And there is only really one of any note that stands out and that is this portrait.”