British Airways Is Auctioning Off Their Art Collection In Effort To Raise Cash

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British Airways has reportedly sought out a reputable auction house to sell off some of the airlines prized artworks which have been exhibited in various public areas over the past decades.

Apparently the carrier has quite a few pieces of valuable artworks of British artists in their possession that gained significantly in value over the years (not uncommon for the art market).

Considering the current financial situation of the airline management must have thought it would be the right time to seek a buyer for these pieces and put the money to better use such as keeping the company afloat.

The matter was reported in the Evening Standard yesterday.

British Airways is quietly selling off millions of pounds of its art collection as it battles to survive the coronavirus crisis, the Evening Standard has learned.

The airline has a large art collection by mostly British artists including works by Damien Hirst and Peter Doig, of which one is known to be well over £1 million and have been displayed in its lounges for 30 or 40 years. The collection has increased in value significantly over the years.

Artworld sources say valuers from Sotheby’s have been brought in by the airline to value a host of works with a view to selling them imminently.

One piece, by renowned painter Bridget Riley, currently hanging at a Heathrow executive lounge, is among those earmarked for sale with a price tag one expert said was “well into seven figures”.

At least 10 artworks out of BA’s collection will be going under the hammer, with selections coming from its business lounges and the walls of its Waterside headquarters near Heathrow.

The airline declined to comment on the sale but sources there said the idea of selling the works had come from staff for ideas about how to save money. …

“We are in a very dark place. We are doing things we have never done before,” said one BA source when asked about the art sale. “When the ship is going down we can’t hold on to all these things.”

BA is thought to be considering replacing the art that gets sold by borrowing art from galleries rather than owning its own collection. …

I’m certainly no art expert but if the pieces in BA’s possession are nice looking then I really wonder if it’s worth it to sell them unless it’s really going to raise a boat load of money like in the high 8 or even 9 figures.

Let’s assume these 10 pieces bring the airline 10-20 Mio pounts what is that really going to do for them? That is such a small amount in the sphere of things where we see bailouts in the dimension of several Billion Euro/USD/GBP (Lufthansa and Air France are to receive up to 9 Bln government bailouts).

So far the British Government has not approved such rescue packages for UK based carriers.

Conclusion

This leaves a little bit of a bitter taste and reminds me of someone who has to pawn his last priced possessions in order to meet financial obligations. Has BA really fallen on such hard times that 15 Mio pounds make a difference or is this just pandering?

Maybe it sounds decadent for a company to keep an own art collection but lets consider that many of these pieces are decades old and have been exhibited in BA’s public areas all this time, be it at an airport or the corporate offices. Maybe the artist even presented it to the airlines because they were proud to contribute something to the British flag carrier? Now the company is selling these pieces off… I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.

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