Monday 28 October 2019 12:01 am

UK art exports surge to £6.8bn as weak sterling boosts US demand

The value of art exports from the UK surged by almost a quarter in the last year thanks to increased appetite from US collectors.

Sales of art and antiques hit £6.8bn in the year to the end of August, up 24 per cent on the previous 12 months, according to figures compiled by private wealth law firm Boodle Hatfield.

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The increased value was boosted mainly by growing demand across the pond, with exports to the US increasing by £1.2bn in the last year, HM Revenue & Customs figures showed. The rise means US buyers now account for 54 per cent of all art exported from the UK.

The increase in UK exports has been fuelled largely by a weaker sterling against the dollar, which has enabled US collectors to purchase art more cheaply than in previous years.

In addition, the UK’s prominent position in the global modern and contemporary art market has allowed it to capitalise on favourable conditions for foreign buyers.

In 2018 the value of sales at London’s post-war and contemporary art auctions jumped more than 50 per cent to $1.2bn (£935m), the highest level since 2010, according to figures from research firm Art Tactic.

In November last year David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist sold for £70m in New York, smashing the auction record for a living artist.

UK urban artists have also enjoyed a period of increased popularity, with Banksy’s painting of chimpanzees in the House of Commons selling for £9.9m earlier this month.

Moreover, the UK art market benefits from the lowest import VAT rate in the EU – at five per cent – enabling dealers to import art cheaply into the UK and then move it through the rest of the bloc.

However, Boodle Hatfield warned dealers could be moving art out of the UK to avoid the risk of increased VAT rates or new licensing requirements after Brexit.

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“Weak Sterling means there has rarely been a better time to buy art in the UK for foreign investors and collectors,” said Fred Clark, associate at Boodle Hatfield.

“The art market is going through a period of great flux as online sales become the norm, an auction in London can now easily sell to buyers anywhere in the world. This means the wide range of contemporary art available for sale in the UK has a growing pool of buyers.”

Clark added that while Brexit did pose a threat to the UK art market, most demand came from outside the EU.

Main image credit: Getty