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Royal Opera House to sell David Hockey painting in fight for survival

The Royal Opera House in London is selling a prized David Hockney painting to stave off financial ruin.

Painted by Hockney in 1972, Portrait of Sir David Webster is expected to raise between £11-18 million when it is sold by international auction house Christie’s on 22 October 2020.

Sir David Webster was chief executive – under the title of general administrator – at the ROH from 1945 to 1970 and was “instrumental in the expansion of the Royal Opera House into the institution we know and love”, according to Katharine Arnold, who is co-head of post-war and contemporary European art at Christie’s.

The proceeds from the sale will contribute significantly to the organisations bid to raise up to £18 million and enable it to overcome “the biggest crisis in [its] history”, ROH chief executive Alex Beard said.

He added “The proceeds will be used to ensure that the world’s greatest artists can once more return to our stages. 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.”

Beard outlined the organisation’s “four-pronged plan for recovery”, which involves staff redundancy and a restructure, a fundraising campaign, government support and “realising such value as we can from our assets”.

The celebrate painter is a renowned opera enthusiast who in addition to painting, designed groundbreaking stage sets for major operas from 1975 to 1992, including at the Royal Opera House.

Hockney has yet to comment on the sale of the painting.


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