“Brexit Bounce”? The Impact of Brexit on the Art Market

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum took place on 23rd June last year and decided Britain to leave European Union. In October of the same year, Prime Minister, Theresa May, claimed that Britain will start the procedures to leave the European Union by March of 2017. Despite that, the process of withdrawal from the European Union has been governed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which requires the member must fulfil its own constitutional conditions before invocating the withdrawal procedures. Therefore, opponents of Brexit submitted an appeal to the High Court. On 3rd November 2016, the High Court decided that the government has no authority to invoke the procedures. On 25th January 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s appeal against the judgement.

Definitely Britain has a long way to go before its withdrawal from the European Union. How has been Brexit affecting the art market? Using data from Artprice.com, Andrea Felsted, a Bloomberg columnist, suggests that: Comparing the sales turnover of the British art market of August 2016 and January 2016, the difference in-between is -28.4%, much bigger than that of 2015 (-2.1%)—buyers may have been unnerved by the political uncertainty around the world; The sales turnover of September to November of 2016 is 5.8% higher than that of 2015. She calls the positive change of the market as “Brexit Bounce”.

Felsted believes that the depreciation of British pounds brought by Brexit, while auction houses did not adjust the lot prices with the depreciation, has encouraged overseas investment.

However, as Felsted also noticed, Bonhams estimated that since Brexit, lots had sold for 20% above lower-end estimates—close enough to the decrease in the value of the pound. Indeed the annual total sales turnover has been declining since 2014. The positive effect of Brexit on the British art market is yet limited.