Effects of Brexit already beginning to be felt by art market

The effects of Brexit are already rippling through the art market as British artist Jenny Saville set a sales record for her work at Sotheby’s London on Tuesday (28 June).

Buoyed by what one London art adviser described as a “10% discount” on account of the drop in value of the pound, Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian picked up Saville’s “Shift” (1996-97) for the Long Museum in Shanghai for £6.8 million with buyer’s premium. Last year, Liu made headlines when he purchased Modigliani’s “Nu couché” for £113 million.

The final price for “Shift” far exceeded the painting’s pre sale estimate of £2 million. Featuring several female nudes and measuring almost 11 feet wide by 11 feet tall, the work will form part of a new exhibition of female artists, “She”, which opens at the Long Museum on 27 July.

According to Bloomberg, Asian and American collectors took advantage of the post-Brexit slump in the value of pound at the Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction. Earlier in the day, the pound, stocks and commodities rose in value for the first time since the EU referendum result was announced. While total sales reached an enormous £52.2 million this still represented a decline of 60% down from the result of a similar sale in 2015.

Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe, Alex Branczik, commented that “it was a hard sale to put together and the referendum didn’t make things easier”. In the end, Branczik believed Tuesday’s sale proved that a “passion for art collecting overrides broader concerns.”

Others suggested the results indicate more pragmatic concerns. New York art dealer, Helly Nahmad, reasoned that Brexit has had a positive impact on the art market because “when the stock market is uncertain and volatile…art is a great alternative investment. It’s like a safe heaven.”

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