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Art exports from UK fell 74 per cent as lockdown closed galleries and auction houses


The value of art, antiques and collectibles exported from the UK fell has fallen 74 per cent as auction rooms and galleries were forced to close due to lockdown, says Boodle Hatfield, a private wealth law firm.Exports of arts and antiques and collectibles fell to just GBP698 million in three months to the end of May 2020 compared to GBP3 billion in the same period last year. In April, just GBP60 million was exported from the UK compared to approximately GBP843 million 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.

“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 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 per cent to GBP8.9 billion in the last year, up from GBP5.7 billion 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 USD1.22 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.”

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