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27 Aug 2020

Sky News: Art exports have fallen by three quarters since lockdown closed galleries and auction houses

On 27 August 2020, Senior Associate, Rebecca Foden spoke live on Sky News with news presenter, Ian King on the topic of art exports in the UK.

The interview looked at how the value of art, antiques and collectibles exported from the UK has fallen 74% as auction rooms and galleries were forced to close in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rebecca addressed the following questions posed by Ian King…

Art sales have halved this year, are you expecting any recovery next year?

The sector is hoping for a bounce back following the effect of the pandemic on retail industries and particularly arts, where they have been unable to host live sales. There has been a lot of talk about art sales going up online. Sotheby’s and Christie’s have held some successful online auctions, but that is of course more difficult for those galleries at the lower end of the market.

Has the rise in online sales been enough to make up for the drop off in auction sales?

Unfortunately not. Certain auction houses are targeting younger buyers, which has accelerated that type of business but it certainly hasn’t made up for the sales that would normally have taken place. Last year was a record breaking year for art exports from the UK, with figures showing they were up 55% as against the previous year and this year has shown a devastating impact on those figures. However, it is important to note that the figures for exports just reflect the goods that pass the borders of the UK, and therefore they might not reflect the underlining sales. So, it may well be that sales have taken place this year but physically the goods haven’t been able to move. The market may therefore be in a more positive position than the export numbers suggest.

Has the prices for individual art works been effected?

Yes, but we probably won’t have a full picture of the impact as the live auctions have been cancelled, so you don’t have the blockbuster figures that usually make headlines. Private sales will have taken place and those figures won’t be publicised. There may well have been some highly priced sales but certainly not as much as previous years.

Do you worry with people reducing their travel, that some dealers and galleries will go out of business?

Unfortunately, that is a possibility. We have seen some galleries go out of business already. The art market in the UK is very dependent on foreign buyers and understandably most want to travel to see the work they are considering purchasing, so it will have an effect and I think there will be an expectation of some insolvencies unfortunately of galleries and dealers towards the end of the year.

Rebecca was live from the Gagosian gallery in London for the interview.