British art industry experts see a silver lining in Brexit

Britain’s exit from the European Union will have many ramifications for British industries, but the art world in particular is expecting a big impact. And interestingly, experts think the news isn’t all bad.

On one hand, acclaimed sculptor Anish Kapoor, who has 15 artists working with him in his studio that are from the E.U., speculates that things will get worse.

“The whole basis of the debate was immigration. Art is being part of a global conversation. Now we are going to think small.” Kapoor told the Times, “It’s the most depressing moment in our troubled recent history.”

On the financial front, many are concerned that Brexit might make it more expensive for Europeans to buy art in Britain. But others speculate that it could be an unlikely boon.

One of those believers is Anthony Browne, who is chairman of the British Art Market Federation, an organization that lobbies the government on behalf of auction houses and dealers.

“This is an opportunity we have to grasp to improve our global competitiveness,” Browne told the Times, “We are in a very strong global position already.” In fact, Britain was the world’s second-largest national art market last year.

There will be tax benefits from being free from the encumbrances of Europe-imposed tariffs and regulations, such as the value-added tax (5 percent in Britain) on artworks imported from outside the bloc. This would make British art a highly desirable commodity.

Dealers agree. Offer Waterman, a London dealer specializing in 20th-century British art, explains, “A cheaper pound helps us to sell more art, and all sales to the E.U. will become export, so VAT will be eliminated.”  This is making British art very attractive to Asian and American buyers recently. [NYT]