Brexit and the Art Market

June 6 2016

Image of Brexit and the Art Market

Picture: Apollo Magazine

In a few weeks here in the UK (on June 23rd) we'll be having a referendum on whether we should remain in the European Union. I'm a fervent 'Remainer', and will be voting for the status quo. I won't bore you with my views on the matter (at least, not yet), but want to point you instead to two articles in the latest Apollo Magazine, where two art market experts set out their case for Remain and Leave. Pierre Valentin, one of the world's leading art market lawyers, is for Remain (and makes, it seems to me, a largely unanswerable case) while the dealer Frank Partridge argues for Brexit.

From this dealer's point of view, being part of the EU, and thus being able to buy, sell and transport works of art across Europe with relative ease, is an absolute necessity. What are your views, from an art market perspective? (And of course I realise there are other more important perspectives).

Update - a reader writes:

Regarding the toxic EU debate I wholeheartedly agree with you that 'being part of the EU, and thus being able to buy, sell and transport works of art across Europe with relative ease, is an absolute necessity'. But surely this doesn't necessitate our continuing membership of the EU, but just our continuing membership of the European Single Market, which are two separate entities? 

If we follow the EEA/ EFTA route and continue to participate in the Single Market, I fail to see how leaving the EU would have any effect on the art market.

First, I'm not so convinced the 26 remaining EU countries, all of whom will have an independent veto over any post-Brexit deal, will want to allow us all the benefits of continued free trade and access to the single market, without us 'paying in'. And if we do strike a deal to stay in the single market, which will inevitably come with strings attached like free movement as well as continuing financial commitments, then what really is the point of leaving. We will lose any ability to help shape any future EU policies that might impact on the art market. Finally, as far as the art market is concerned, can we be so sure that protectionist elements within the remaining EU will not want to seek to limit the ability of the UK's art market to operate within their countries (I'm thinking especially France)? There are too many uncertainties for us to take the Brexit risk.

Update II - an economist writes:

Your concern about Brexit focuses on the sale and movement of art.  The movement of art will continue because it is in everyone's interest whether inside the EU or separate from the EU for it to continue. Goods flow in a Common Market but labour doesn't.  The major impact on the art world will be the flow of talented people.  When work permits and residence visas are required it will impair the movement of curators, gallery staff, museum directors and their working spouses or partners, conservators, and all manner of talent.   And the availability of health and educational benefits for British citizens seeking to study art history and conservation or work in the EU and vice versa will be severely affected. The EU has its costs but Britain has become accustomed to its advantages.

Another reader writes:

I can't conceive of my vote being swayed primarily by my business interests as an art dealer. Having grown up under the EU I am exhilarated to finally have the chance to take back control of our own laws and our own borders. Uncontrolled immigration is the number one factor for me - anywhere near the current rate is totally unsustainable in terms of the NHS, schools, housing and culture. It will be a challenge even post-Brexit to regain control but the alternative is no-control and that is a prospect that far outweighs any short-term personal financial interests for me.

While another adds, in exasperation:

Even my favourite art blog is talking about Brexit and Remain with a bias…! there is no escaping it. HELP!

Update III - I'm informed, however, that there may be a silver lining for me personally if the vote goes for 'Leave':

Brexit might benefit you and your property value as well.

If Leave win then Scotland [where AHN lives] will leave the UK and promptly rejoin the EU which will be a great boost to the Scottish economy as those companies and institutions that want to be in the EU flick north. A great demand for prime Edinburgh property will occur and a demand for appropriate art to fill the offices. You win personally with either result. What a world. 

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