Royal Opera House to sell David Hockney painting to raise funds as the arts industry continues to suffer

The painting of the Royal Opera House's former chief executive Sir David Webster will be sold at auction by Christie's, to help the organisation stay financially afloat during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

Published: October 5, 2020 at 3:35 pm

The Royal Opera House will be selling a portrait of its previous chief executive Sir David Webster painted by British artist David Hockney at an auction hosted by Christie's. The painting is believed to have been valued at between £11m and £18m.


The decision to sell the painting comes after the Royal Opera House has suffered what chief executive Alex Beard is referring to as the 'biggest crisis' in its history. The coronavirus pandemic and UK lockdown has meant that the Royal Opera House has lost a huge amount of revenue, and has launched a plan to keep afloat as the pandemic ensues.

As well as selling the painting, the Royal Opera House will be making redundancies, undertaking a major fundraising drive and hopefully receiving a loan from the Treasury's emergency arts bailout fund.

Who is Sir David Webster?

David Webster – the figure in David Hockney's painting – was the chief executive of the Royal Opera House from 1945 to 1970. Before his time with the Royal Opera House, Webster was chairman of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was Webster that set up the opera company that is still resident at the Royal Opera House, after he convinced Sadler's Wells Ballet to move its company to the opera house.

He retired from the role in 1970, dying just one year later.

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Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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