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Art exports have fallen 74% as lockdown closed galleries and auction houses

The value of art, antiques and collectibles exported from the UK fell has fallen 74% as auction rooms and galleries were forced to close says Boodle Hatfield, the leading private wealth law firm.

Exports of arts and antiques and collectibles fell to just £698m in three months to the end of May 2020 compared to £3billion in the same period last year. In April, just £60m was exported from the UK compared to approximately £843m in April last year.

Fred Clark, Associate at Boodle Hatfield, says: “With many investors in art taking a financial hit from the coronavirus crisis and the art market all but closed, sales collapsed and supply to the market dropped dramatically.”

“We’re now on the road to recovery.”

Adds Fred Clark: “Some of the bigger auction houses have managed to hold successful online sales but that hasn’t made up for the lost sales elsewhere, especially amongst smaller galleries who lack a significant internet presence.”

“As the UK art market is so dependent on foreign buyers it needs international travel to oil the wheels of commerce - seeing an artwork with your own eyes is an essential part of buying art.”

This year’s slump in sales comes after record breaking figures for last year where exports from the UK jumped 55% to £8.9bn in the last year, up from £5.7bn the previous year*. 

One factor behind last year’s rise in art and antiques exports has been the weakness of Sterling due to Brexit uncertainty, which saw the pound drop to $1.22 against the US dollar. This has enabled international investors to purchase art and collectables in the UK at a favourable exchange rate and export it overseas.

Boodle Hatfield says many investors have also been exporting art works out of the UK to avoid the possible risks involved in a No Deal Brexit. A No Deal Brexit could lead to more bureaucracy and higher tariffs both on exports to the EU and to other countries.

The British art market is now the second largest in the world by value.

Simon Fitzpatrick, Partner at Boodle Hatfield, says: “Many foreign collectors are aware that the UK offers great art pieces that they are unlikely to find elsewhere.”

“London is still one of the world’s centres for exciting contemporary art and there is a thriving contemporary art gallery scene growing outside London in places like Margate and Harrogate."

Before this year’s slump the value of art exports from the UK were at record highs

Art Exports

*HMRC – year-end April 30 2020

 This article was first published in eprivateclient and Wealth Adviser on 24th August 2020. 

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