British Airways (BA) is auctioning some of its highly-priced collection of artworks as it battles the “financial distress” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

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The move comes as a number of the airline’s fleet remains grounded due to the COVID-19 crisis.

It also comes a few weeks after BA had said it would cut up to 12,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce after the International Airlines Group (IAG) presented a restructuring programme to trade unions.

It also understood that the auction house ‘Sotheby’s’ has been hired to arrange the sales of at least 10 pieces, although it wasn’t exactly clear as to which ones have been identified for auction.

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According to BBC, the collection spans art by Chris Ofili, a Nigerian-British painter; Damien Hirst; Bridget Riley; Peter Doig, with one believed to be valued at more than £1 million.

Other works said to be in BA’s collection are pieces by Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor but the cash-strapped airline neither commented on the sale nor identified which would go under the hammer.

“We’re in a very dark place. We’re doing things we have never done before. When the ship is going down we can’t hold on to all these things,” Evening Standard quoted a BA spokesperson as saying.

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Speaking on the development, Susie Allen and Laura Culpan, founders of Artwise, also noted that the works to be sold were purchased and commissioned by artists early in their careers.

“So during this time many of the works have grown in value, although this was never the intention behind the collection,” BBC quoted them to have said.

“It established BA as one of the big corporate supporters of contemporary art. The works would rotate around BA offices globally.

“We are of course very sad to see some of the key treasures from the BA art collection being put up for auction.

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“A collection which, in its day, was so admired and was the first of its kind within the airline industry. However, we do understand that these are unprecedented times.”



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