Hit Hard by Travel Disruptions, British Airways Will Sell a $1 Million Bridget Riley Painting and 16 Other Works at Sotheby’s This Month

Works by Damien Hirst, Julian Opie, and Marc Quinn are among those being auctioned off in July.

Bridget Riley, Cool Edge (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Bridget Riley, Cool Edge (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A signature 1982 Bridget Riley painting is the star lot of a Sotheby’s sale presenting works from the corporate collection of British Airways, which is reeling financially from widespread travel disruptions and diminished air traffic.

The airline announced in April that it was prepared to cut up to 12,000 employees, which amounts to more than 28 percent of its workforce. The company has since come under fire for not taking greater measures to preserve its workers’ jobs. 

The painting, titled Cool Edge, carries no guarantee and is estimated to bring in between £800,000 and £1.2 million ($1 million to $1.5 million) at the July 28 “Rembrandt to Richter” evening sale. It was previously on view in a luxury lounge at Heathrow airport in London. The sale was first announced in June.

Inspired by ancient Egyptian tomb paintings Riley saw on a trip to the country in 1979, the abstract work is part of her “Egyptian Series,” examples of which are parts of the permanent collections of the Tate in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Terry Frost, <i> Sunglow</i> (1991). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Terry Frost, Sunglow (1991). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The other 16 works being auctioned off, the majority of which were done by British artists and were used to adorn the company’s corporate offices, will be featured in Sotheby’s Modern and Post-war British art sale, which will be online from July 20 to 30.

Among the artworks include are paintings by Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, George Shaw; prints by Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, and Julian Opie; and a portfolio of 10 etchings by Peter Doig. 

With the exception of Terry Frost’s 1997 painting Colour Down the Side 1968, which is expected to go for £20,000 to £30,000 ($25,000 to $37,000), each work in the online sale is estimated below £15,000 ($19,000). 

“This fittingly British collection presents a roll call of some of the greatest names of the second half of the 20th century, long-celebrated in the British Airways collection,” Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s European chairman, said in a statement.


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