British Airways Raising Millions By Selling Lounge Artwork

Filed Under: British Airways

We know airlines around the world are in a tough financial spot, but British Airways sure is getting creative when it comes to ways to raise money.

British Airways selling lounge artwork

The Evening Standard reports that British Airways is quietly selling off millions of dollars worth of artwork, with pieces that were previously on display at British Airways’ Heathrow lounges, as well as at the company’s Waterside headquarters.

The company has allegedly gotten the help of Sotheby’s to appraise the artwork, some of which is quite valuable. The company is looking to sell at least 10 pieces of art, some of which the airline has been displayed for over 30 years, and which have increased in value significantly.

I was never really aware that any of the art in British Airways’ lounges had much value, but apparently it does. British Airways has artwork from Peter Doig, Damien Hirst, and Bridget Riley, with at least a couple of the pieces now being worth seven figures.

Artwork from British Airways lounges is for sale

Where did this idea come from?

While airlines across the globe are trying to cut costs and raise funds, this is the only major airline I know of that’s resorting to selling lounge art.

Apparently the idea to sell artwork came from employees who were asked for ideas to save money — I’d certainly prefer to see British Airways selling art than the brutal way they’re laying off and reducing pay for flight attendants and pilots, but given that it’s British Airways we’re talking about, they’ll no doubt do both.

Am I the only one who at least wonders a little bit if part of the motivation may be British Airways management trying to make the situation seem even more dire, in order to justify all the other things they’re doing? You know, something along the lines of “the situation is so bad that we’re having to sell the stuff on the walls of our headquarters and lounges, so surely you’ll be okay with a 50% pay cut.”

If that horse is for sale, reasonably priced, and ships easily, I call first dibs! 😉

Bottom line

British Airways is selling artwork from lounges and the company’s headquarters, as some pieces are apparently worth six figures.

I’ve always assumed that virtually any artwork displayed in lounges had little value. That makes me wonder, are there any other lounges that have valuable artwork on display? The one I can maybe think of is the Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge in Doha.

  1. Mon’dieu! In German we would say ‘Kunst-Banausen”.

    I guess the British (very capitalistic people) don’t value art besides the price tag.

  2. That horse is postmodernist guff.

    Damien Hirst is a hack but Bridget Riley has done some good stuff.

    Sell it all and replace it with some works by up an comers. It’ll be a good rainy day fund for when the next crisis comes around.

  3. If Ben hasn’t noticed the artwork, I guess it means typical customers couldn’t give a stuff. So, rather than cut jobs, yes, they probably should flip off some art.

    Fascinating that OMAAT thinks this is the big BA news story of the day, rather than the extension of status for twelve months, lowering of tier points needed to get status, etc.

    Still, we all hate BA, eh?

  4. “flip off” should have been “flog off”. Sorry about that. Autocorrect doesn’t like English colloquialisms.

  5. @Ben Holz/Milan
    Ihr zwei Meinungsunterdruecker koenntet als gutes Beispiel vorangehen und selber die Fresse halten.

  6. This is a rounding error. Would the revenue from selling the art even cover one day’s losses? Selling aircraft would make a difference, though it is a buyer’s market.

  7. Whatever the motivation, I like this and the industry could do with a dash of creativity to pull through the crisis. I wonder if there is a way to use parked planes for something else, particularly the ones predicted never to fly again – perhaps converting them to a lounge or small boutique airport hotels.

  8. @cargocult

    They have mortgaged a package of planes to raise £750m. Announced a few weeks ago and Ben did an article on it at the time.

    No doubt they would try and sell more but who is out there to buy them?.

    @Ed – they bought these works when Riley and Hurst and are in etc etc were up and coming.

  9. Being in “that” industry I can tell you this is far more common than you imagine. Especially in the contemporary arena. Corporations have been buying up art for decades to impress. And often sell them in downturns. You should have seen the impressionist pieces coming out of Japan in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It’s more about optics in that, “You are laying off 30% of your workforce but you have an ego collection of contemporary art sitting on the walls doing nothing?”

    With that said the market is surprisingly good right now. It has actually surged a bit in the past few months. They should do well.

  10. This “art” must not be in the Galleries Lounge located in the T5 B Gates at LHR. That place made me realize that people who complain about Admirals Clubs in the US don’t actually know a dump when they’ve seen one.

  11. I’ve always had a problem with putting ‘British’ and ‘art’ and ‘ contemporary’ in the same sentence, but here you go.

  12. @Max your hypocrisy is unreal haha
    Do you really expect people to respect your opinion, which is mocking people out of the blue with no reason whatsoever?

  13. @Ben Holz
    Huh?!? British Airways just gave the exact confirmation for what I have said.

    Respect for my opinion? Nah, I don’t need that from you. But respect for the right to express ones opinion (same right applies to everyone else!) is very important.

  14. Daimler Benz owns a pretty big art collection. On a regular base they (have to) sell pieces, apparently because the collection does not receive significant funding from the company and has to support itself.
    I assume BA’s case maybe a similar constellation. At most, it can be a signal of good will, if they earn a seven figure sum through selling these pieces, it would tie the company over for half a day at most when it comes to the losses from Corona. If anything a sign of good will, before cutting salaries, furloughing/firing, etc.

  15. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Concorde Room still served Concorde passengers, there was some spectacular art work displayed. I seldom fly BA these days (“BA First is the best business class around these days.”) so I have not been to their lounges in years.

  16. @2paxfly are you joking ? – contemporary artists : david Hockney , Damien Hirst , Banksy , Grayson Perry , Lucian Freud , Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin , Paula Rego, Richard Hamilton , Bridget Riley , Frank Auerbach to name a few

  17. Ich liebe es, hierher zu kommen, um an all das College-Deutsch erinnert zu werden, das ich vergessen habe.

    (Hat tip to Google Translate)

  18. Im sure ive seen art in airline lounges with price tags on them, like on consignment. It allows the lounge to change things around.

  19. The horse will stay. It would be embarrassing for it to be exposed as being paper mâché.
    The paintings have no place in an airport lounge and are unappreciated. Someone has realised it’s a golden opportunity to offload them.

  20. Asks for employees cost cutting suggestions…
    We could pay the CEO less! How about we cut executive bonuses? Less share buybacks and dividends!

    Did I hear someone in the back say we should sell all the art?

  21. The cabana section of Concorde lounge T5 has some wonderful limited edition prints by big name British artists. I guess next time I’m there, I won’t be seeing them. I never thought BA will offload them but desperate times require desperate measures…. sigh

  22. They can always reinvest in new artwork from Parkwest Gallery once the cruise lines get back up and running.

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