How Brexit Could Influence The Art World - Comments From Olyvia Kwok
Comments From Olyvia Kwok
15 October '19
How Brexit Could Influence The Art World  Olyvia Kwok

by Ella Hendrix

15 October '19

How Brexit Could Influence The Art World - Comments From Olyvia Kwok

Comments From Olyvia Kwok

Over the years, the art industry has been influenced by many events and our perception of art has changed in response to different incidents throughout history. Recently, there has been much speculation about how Brexit will affect the art world, especially when the industry relies so heavily on free movement and cross-cultural exchanges. Some individuals fear that the changes brought on by Brexit could lead to cultural isolation, restrictions on trade, and reduced access to overseas talent. This could constitute a serious threat to the established UK art market we see today. On the other hand, other art professionals welcome Brexit as a chance for the UK art market to adapt, grow, and gain its independence. With this regard, here are some of the potential ways that Brexit could influence the art world:

Independence and growth

The UK art market has been hugely successful over the years and has maintained its position as the second-largest art market in the world, behind the United States (US) and ahead of China. Many professionals in the art industry view Brexit as the opportunity for the UK to establish itself apart from the European Union (EU) and make its own rules surrounding art trade for the first time. According to Olyvia Kwok, a well-known art collector with over 15 years of experience investing in art worldwide -

“After three years of discussing almost nothing else, the impact of Brexit has already been priced in. There are no surprises left at this point. Despite the current turbulence in short to medium term, in the long-term, the UK is resilient and will be well-positioned for growth.”

It is thought that the UK can use Brexit as an opportunity to grow and strengthen through amending or deleting certain policies on the art trade. For instance, the UK will have the chance to set its tariff levels and trade policy for goods intended for the UK art market. In particular, the level of the import VAT rate, which is currently 5%, could be lowered to help give the UK art market a competitive edge. This could enable the UK to develop stronger relationships with countries in the East like China, where there is an enormous interest in British cultural exports.

Additional restrictions, fees, and barriers

On the other hand, some fear that Brexit could harm the UK art market due to physical consequences such as additional restrictions and fees. The House of Lords recently released a report on the negative impact that Brexit could have on the cultural sector. In the report, the House of Lords warns that the UK could experience a decline in skilled workers coming to the country. This could be hugely detrimental to the UK art market as audiences enjoy seeing artistic talent from across the EU performing in the UK. What’s more, A recent survey by the Arts Council found -

“Barriers to ease of movement are likely to affect the ability of creative organizations to tour internationally, 70.8% of respondents said this would impact negatively on their future touring work within the EU.”

A further study by the Arts Council found that 64% of art organizations currently work inside the EU, with ‘touring exhibitions’ and ‘sending UK artists abroad’ being the most popular activities.

It is also worth mentioning that a major factor in the UK art market’s success has been due to overseas talent and ease of movements across the EU. Brexit is likely to bring in several new regulations, duties, and taxes, which may add additional expense and make transactions far more arduous and complex. According to The Art Newspaper -

“A no-deal Brexit could result in creative industries losing out on £1bn of growth by 2030.”

Art is extremely important to the UK economy and currently generates around £14bn. For that reason, many feel that the potential effects of Brexit on the cultural sector should be taken seriously, with many believing that Brexit could have a massively negative impact on the UK art market.

Investment opportunities

Despite the above concerns, Kwok believes that now is the perfect time for foreign investors to look at the advantage of investment opportunities in the UK art market. She notes -

“Frieze is taking place at a time when the pound is at a historic low; this is a unique opportunity for foreign investors to make strategic acquisitions.”

In today’s society, people are increasingly looking to invest in non-traditional investments that offer higher revenue potential and less risk when compared to traditional investments like stocks and shares. Art is a tangible asset that offers a unique investment type. Kwok believes that all art collectors should take advantage of events and changes in the art world to make strategic purchases.

Inclusive and open art market

With the UK due to leave the EU on 31st October, art events like Frieze are encouraging galleries and art professionals to be prepared for what might come. Director of Frieze Victoria Siddall said -

“We have been working to make sure London feels as open, exciting and global as ever,”

It appears that despite the concerns, the UK seems to be in an excellent position to evolve and grow. While adapting to the changes brought on by Brexit will not be easy, there are several benefits that art professionals should be taking advantage of. Art law specialists at Boodle Hatfield LLP point out that the UK has a number of advantages that will help it remain strong after Brexit, this includes - several international auction houses such as Sotheby’s, many major art galleries in London, and fantastic legal and accounting firms that are experienced and knowledgeable in importing and exporting art globally.


While it is evident that Brexit will have an impact on the art market, the full effects are still largely unknown. It is possible that Brexit could result in additional restrictions, duties, and fees that could harm the industry. However, many art professionals, including Kwok, are welcoming Brexit as an opportunity for the UK art market to gain its independence and set its own rules surrounding art trade for the first time. This could help the UK art market gain a competitive edge and grow over the coming years.

About author My name is Ella, I'm a creative freelance writer and I typically cover articles on art history, design trends and business within the art world.

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