An Inglorious Revolution

June 24 2016

Image of An Inglorious Revolution

Picture: Barcroft Media

The United Kingdom has voted to leave the EU. As I write, at 5.31am, the pound has fallen to its lowest level against the US dollar since the 1980s. It has even fallen against the Zimbabwean dollar. The FTSE futures promise a significant fall when markets open. Everybody in my country has become instantly poorer. The future is frighteningly uncertain. But Boris Johnson says today is our 'independence day'. Apparently we are now 'free'. But free from what? Free to commit economic suicide? Free to undermine European solidarity and peace? Free to break up the UK (Scotland will surely hold another independence referendum soon)? I am truly baffled. And, to be honest, terrified. Above all I am sad. We are a divided nation. In terms of our system of government, we have taken the most momentous decision since the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, when we evicted the Stuarts and James II. I see no glory in this new revolution. God help us.

Update - thanks for your emails, it seems most British AHNers wanted to stay in the EU. I entirely respect the views of those who didn't - and congratulations on your victory. One reader, however, wrote:

I enjoy reading your blog for art news, but your recent foray into political commentary has really highlighted how removed you and your peers in the art industry are from the everyday person. You are just as up yourselves as the idiots who promote contemporary 'art' when push comes to shove. Learn some humility and stick to your day job please.

If I may, here's a few words about my day job. AHN is not my day job. I earn nothing from it, and despite offers have kept it advert free. I devote as much time as I can to it every week because I want to raise awareness about art history, and because I enjoy the interaction with readers. My day job - the thing that pays the mortgage, and the school fees, and everything else (and gives me the time to write AHN) - is being an art dealer in Old Master pictures. That wasn't easy before the Brexit vote, and it is even harder now. Hence my concern above.

In my experience, people only buy paintings if economic times are good, and they are feeling both prosperous and confident in the future (in terms of earning power). That depends in turn on economic growth - and above all stability. Take that stability away, and suddenly things begin to look very different. Brexit changes everything. And for this art dealer, self-employed with a new business, a family, and also facing the prospect of not only years of economic uncertainty, but living in a new country (I'm based in Edinburgh, and the art market operates almost entirely out of London) things look pretty grim right now.

On Thursday, before the Brexit result, the UK was the fifth largest economy in the world. Immediately after the result, we became the sixth. It's that bad. Last  week we were just getting on with our lives. Now, we're wondering just how different life is going to be. You'll just have to forgive me if my feelings on this occasionally stray onto AHN. It does say 'opinions' on the masthead.

Update II - thanks for your further emails. One intrigued me:

I have discovered a scholar who is charging $24.95 annually (cheap at twice the price) for his Early Christianity blog to keep the haters at bay. Last year, he raised more than $100k and donated 100% to non-profits for the homeless and hungry. Aren't there art history students who need a scholarship/travel stipend? Museums that need conservation projects funded?  Sleepers that need to be purchased and donated?


I think I will always keep AHN free to access. But I would like to do more to raise funds for various art historical causes, with readers' generous help. We might call it a voluntary AHN tax. I will think further on this.

Update III - a reader asks:


Is the oil of Boris on canvas or board? this is an art blog isnt it…



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