After months of uncertainty and speculation, Brexit is now a reality. The Great Britain has voted to leave the EU – the result that has left many of its residents fearing for the future awaiting. As markets were plunging sharply around the world suggesting major economic risks, the vote is taking its toll on the art industry as well. We have already speculated about problems this scenario would cause for the art market, from issues with funding and export licences to costs of the artworks trading and the problems that would emerge due to the new visa regime. It is too early to comprehend all the implications of this new reality, but all the major players in the art market are already expressing their concerns as they face the uncertainty.
The Shock and Disbelief of the Art Industry
The reactions to the Brexit were mainly shock and disbelief. After the polls were closed, voters have been frantically googling ‘What happens if we leave the EU’, but also ‘What is EU?’. It seems that the voters weren’t fully informed about their vote’s full implications, or even sure what they were voting against. As British are petitioning for another referendum that would overturn the result, the EU is taking a firm stand – they are demanding for the painful divorce to start as soon as possible. The art world has immediately taken to social media to express their anxiety and sadness. The majority feels it is too early to know the effect and full implications, but they are all anxious to see how the UK and global markets will adjust to legislative changes and possible cuts in art funding as the British pound continues to drop. They also fear the effects on the British culture, especially museums and galleries.
It Is All Business
Since London has been regarded as the capital of the European art market, it is clear why the art world anxiously awaits for the impact of Brexit. Some lots have already been withdrawn from this week’s auctions, as consignors are getting nervous due to financial uncertainty. As the pound continues to drop, several experts are fearing that fewer pieces would reach the British market in the future. On the other hand, European and US collectors will have significantly more buying power. For major auction houses such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, it is business as usual. They have stated that once the political process becomes clearer, they would adapt to whatever environment Brexit brings. Many hope that Britain is able to create a viable separate economy, but Brexit might still impact the artistic production and content. It still remains to be seen how Britain’s auction houses will be affected in the long term by new trade arrangements with the EU and if duties and taxes would deter sellers and buyers.
A Dash of Optimism
Many dealers are pointing out opportunities for international art buyers, as art prices set in pounds will effectively have fallen for them. Edward Dolman from Phillips stated that the weakness of the pound should attract more Asian and American buyers in particular. On the other hand, British art dealers are looking forward to a future without EU regulations on trade. The British Antique Dealers’ Association highlighted the difficulties for art and antiques dealers caused by EU regulations regarding issues such as Artist’s Resale Rights and explained that the British market can hope for a ‘new liberated and progressive approach’. It will take some time until full implications of Brexit on the art industry become much clearer, but so far, it seems that the art market will cope as it always does.