The value of art and antiques exported from the UK rose 25% to £6.8bn* in 2018/19 (year-end August 31), up from £5.4bn in 2017/18, says Boodle Hatfield LLP, the leading private wealth law firm.

Boodle Hatfield says the rise in UK exports of art and antiques is being driven by strong demand from the US fuelled by a weaker sterling against the dollar. This has enabled US collectors to purchase art more cheaply than in previous years.

Exports from the UK to the US have increased £1.2bn* in the last year to £4.1bn in 2018/19, up from £2.9bn in 2017/18. This growth means the US now accounts for 54% of all art exported from the UK.

Boodle Hatfield adds the UKs position at the forefront of the global modern and contemporary art market has allowed it to benefit from the market’s growth. In 2018 the value of sales at London’s post-war and contemporary auctions jumped 52% to $1.2bn***, its highest level since 2010. The increasing popularity of UK urban artists has contributed to this growth, with a Banksy painting recently shattering the artist's auction record, selling in London for just under £9.9m.

The UK also benefits from the lowest import VAT rate in the EU at 5%. This is low in comparison, with Spain (21%) and France (5.5%). Lower VAT enables dealers and galleries to import art cheaply into the UK and then move it throughout the EU Single Market without paying any further tax, although Brexit is likely to impact this in due course.

Exports to the EU also remain at a high level, with the total value of art exported from the UK to the EU rising 87% to £219m in 2018/19 (year-end August 31), up from £118m five years earlier in 2014/15.

Boodle Hatfield says those involved in the art market may be moving stock ahead of Brexit to avoid any potential increase in import VAT rates. There could also be new licencing requirements imposed after Brexit, potentially making it more difficult to move pieces of art between the UK and countries within the EU.

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

“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.”

“Whilst Brexit poses a threat, it is important to remember that the majority of demand for art from the UK comes outside the EU.”

Value of art exported from the UK continues to increase up 25% to £6.8bn in the last year alone

This article first appeared in CityAM, eprivateclient and Investor Chronicle on 28 October 2019.