British Airways Art Collection Sale Begins!

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British Airways, the once-glamorous “world’s favorite airline,” has begun auctioning off its art collection of more than 1,500 pieces that have been hanging at various airport lounges and corporate offices worldwide.

The first piece gone for sale is Bridget Riley’s Cool Edge that is sold by Sotheby’s in London. The auction estimate is 800,000 – 1,200,000 + fees.

You can access the action here.

Note that you cannot pay or partially pay using Avios.

Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian (access their piece here):

“During this unprecedented time we have made the decision to work with Sotheby’s, one of the world’s leading and most trusted auction houses, to sell a number of pieces by artists including Bridget Riley and Damien Hirst.”

Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s chairman for Europe, said the collection features “the best of British art”, from British modernists to the Young British Artists of the 90s.

BA’s art collection of about 1,500 pieces, with a focus on British artists, has been displayed in its Waterside HQ and its executive lounges. The custom for its airport lounges is in particular doubt, with a large downturn in business flying expected even once travel restrictions are lifted.

Here’s how Sotheby’s describes the painting:

Offered from the British Airways Collection, Cool edge is at once rigorous and alluring, a testament to Bridget Riley’s pioneering investigations into the optical potential of colour and the complexities of illusion and perception. Balancing colour and form and momentarily translating the ordinary into the ravishing, Riley has produced a prolific, compelling and technically pristine body of work over the course of her extraordinary career; an oeuvre that was recently the subject of the National Galleries of Scotland and Hayward Gallery’s lauded Bridget Riley retrospective.

Professor and art historian Robert Kudielka affirms, “Riley changes our way of looking. And she does this successfully with the aid of our sense of sight because what she asks us to do is by no means unnatural. The demands of her art are neither at war with our common perceptions of nature nor do they violate the physical characteristics of our perceptual faculties” (R. Kudielka, ‘Bridget Riley’, in: Exh. Cat., Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland (and travelling), Bridget Riley, 2019, p. 128). Executed in 1982, Cool edge belongs to an iconic series that Riley began after she visited Egypt in 1979. Following this trip, the colours in her work became brighter and more intensified; indeed, the saturated hues of violet, aquamarine, coral and yellow on the surface of Cool edge form the foundation of the artist’s ‘Egyptian palette’, an assortment of hues based on ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and local landscapes.

One of the finest examples of Riley’s chromatic stripe paintings from the 1980s, Cool edge is energetically charged with vibrant tones that singularly establish the painting’s composition and structure. Many of Riley’s works from the ‘Egyptian’ series reside in the permanent collections of international institutions. Achæan (1981), a work employing a remarkably similar colour palette, is a highlight of the Tate Collection, London, while Blue About (1983/2002), a compelling work with vibrant blue and violet undertones, resides in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The effervescent quality of Cool edge rivals both examples, and its pulsating, vertical stripes embody a masterwork of pure chromatic sensation.

Conclusion

It looks like a nice piece of modern art that British Airways is now auctioning off. Perhaps it would have made sense to rotate these 1,500 pieces at various lounges (outside of their HQ) and feature them.

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