LONDON – Britain’s Royal Opera House is selling a David Hockney painting of its former chief to help it stay afloat as coronavirus-related restrictions keep many U.K. performing arts venues shuttered.
Christie’s auction house said Monday that “Portrait of Sir David Webster” will be offered for sale in London on Oct. 22, with an estimated price of between 11 million pounds and 18 million pounds ($14 million and $23 million).
Hockney, one of Britain’s most renowned living artists, painted the portrait in 1971 after Webster stepped down as the company’s general administrator. Webster died later the same year.
Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard said the company was facing “the biggest crisis in our history.”
He said proceeds from the sale “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.”
He said the company, home to Britain’s Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, would also need to cut staff and costs and seek funding from supporters and Britain's Conservative government to stay afloat.
British theater and music venues are struggling to survive because social distancing rules mean most can’t reopen with enough audience members to break even.
The Royal Opera House is currently offering streams of past opera and ballet productions and hopes to hold a few performances before limited live audiences later this month.