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Sotheby's begins auction of British Airways artworks

By Jean Lotus
British Airways will begin to auction off some of the most valuable pieces in its corporate art collection this week. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI
British Airways will begin to auction off some of the most valuable pieces in its corporate art collection this week. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- Sotheby's London offices on Monday began the auction of more than a dozen corporate artworks being sold by British Airways with the hope of raising cash to recoup pandemic-related losses.

The airline is selling some of its most valuable works from the more than 1,500 paintings that were displayed in corporate offices and in business and first-class lounges.

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Cool Edge, an abstract work by British artist Bridget Riley, is expected to bring the highest bids, between $1.1 million and $1.5 million, according to Sotheby's. The 4.5-foot canvas of vertical lines was Inspired by the "violet, aquamarine, coral and yellow" colors on tomb paintings Riley saw during a 1979 trip to Egypt.

Other works featured in the British Airways Collection of 17 pieces, largely by 20th Century artists, include seven other prints by Riley, as well as works by Damien Hirst, Peter Doig, Terry Frost, George Shaw, Marc Quinn and Julian Opie. The other artworks are expected to up to $220,000, according to Sotheby's estimates.

The company announced the sale of the artworks as a way to cut costs after parent company IAG announced a $1.8 billion in pandemic-related losses in May.

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"We are fortunate to have been able to showcase a wealth of artists and creativity through our artwork collection, many of which have been a special part of the design of our lounges worldwide," Carolina Martinoli, British Airways' director of brand and customer experience, told Business Traveler.

"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. We look forward to them finding new homes with this sale."

British Airways on Friday announced that the airline would be retiring its entire fleet of more than 30 of its 747 jumbo luxury airliners as a cost-cutting measure, addressing the changes in the airline industry in the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and changing travel habits.

The airline said it would cut 12,000 jobs after reaching an agreement with its pilot union. Earlier, the airline suspended about 80 percent of its workforce, or 30,000 employees.

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