The art collection of the British Airways


    At the auction part of the great collection to save the airline

    The British Airways art collection is one of the most important Corporate Art Collection

    in England, created to support contemporary art (especially British art) on a global level.

    Much of the collection was created with the help of Artwise, a team of London curators who worked with British Airways for 17 years (1995 to 2012) buying or commissioning over 1,500 works from the likes of Bridget Riley, Patrick Heron or David Nash.

    The airline’s decision to recognize the potential of rebranding to Art and Artists dates back to the early 1990s, to increase brand awareness and create a new contemporary (and British) image for British Airways.

    The collection, whose value today exceeds millions of pounds, was created with the intention of promoting young British art. In fact, the founders of Artwise, Susie Allen and Laura Culpan, stated in a statement to the BBC that they generally bought and commissioned works by artists at the beginning of their careers whose market value has grown over time.

    Not only for the enhancement of British art: as Angeline Mayhead, responsible for the airline’s lounge development, says, the collection was also created with the intention of offering a warm and pleasant welcome to premium customers waiting for their flight in airport lounges. It is no coincidence that in recent years the collection has been displayed at Waterside headquarters and in the company’s executive lounges.

    Although enriching itself was never the intention behind the creation of the collection, today British Airways has found itself facing one of the 3D art market players, the Debt condition.

    In fact, in order to cope with the losses caused by the Covid emergency and save the company’s balance sheet, it was forced to auction part of the collection. According to Forbes, the company recorded a loss of £1.5 billion in the first three months of the year and currently plans to lay off about 12,000 employees, or 30% of the staff.

    About the auction organized in collaboration with Sotheby’s, British Airways presented a list of some of the greatest names of the second half of the 20th century celebrated at length in its collection, which boasts works by artists such as Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, Fiona Rae, Gary Hume and Chris Ofili.

    17 masterpieces were presented through two auctions, “Rembrandt to Richter” (28 July) and “Modern & Post-War British Art” (online from 20 to 30 July).

    Among the highlights are the work “Cool Edge” (1982) by the artist Bridget Riley, in possession of British Airways for over 30 years. The work, previously estimated at between £ 800,000 and £ 1.2 million, was sold off yesterday at a staggering £ 1,875,000.

    Other works by Riley are still the protagonists of the “Modern & Post-War British Art” auction: seven silkscreen prints from 1971, next to which are prints by Damien Hirst , Marc Quinn and Julian Opie.

    But that’s not all: until July 30 you can also buy paintings by Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and George Shaw online, as well as a portfolio of engravings by Peter Doig.

    Deciding to separate from one’s work is never easy, both emotionally and bureaucratically. For the latter case, the management and enhancement of the collection through an impeccable archive and document management that facilitates the transfer of ownership becomes fundamental.

    Today the Digital Archives are useful tools to store, monitor and update the documentation: only in this way it is possible to manage and verify the economic value of the works, having all the cards in order to proceed with the sale.

    The case of the British Airways Collection, on the one hand, proves how a wise management of one’s own collection can be useful to deal with unforeseen situations that require quick and immediate operations such as the sale of works in a period of crisis; on the other hand, it shows how art can support the economic recovery, making itself absolutely necessary for a market that has no intention of freezing or collapsing on itself.

    And you, are you ready to discover the British Airways art collection?


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