UK art and antiques market recovers second position globally in 2018

This week it was confirmed that the UK art market had recovered in 2018, reclaiming its second position in the global league tables.

Whether by sale or loan, the reported numbers represent the overall value of artworks transported across the UK border in 2018.

Last year, the export of art and antiques from the UK increased by 5.5% to £5.1 billion. Global imports also rose in the UK by over 20% to £2.1 billion. These figures show a dramatic change in the UK art market since 2017, which saw art and antique exports decline by 2.2% and imports by a staggering 21%.

The UK likewise witnessed a boost in exports to the United Arab Emirates. Following the grand opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in November 2017, the UK exported £78.2 million worth of paintings to the UAE. Exports of fine art from the UK to the UAE grew over the past year as well, increasing from £31.1 million in 2017 to £83.4 million in 2018.

By contrast, trade declined between the UK and Switzerland – one of the country’s main trading partners. The export of pictures to Switzerland dropped by more than 30% at £532 million, while imports fell by more than 40% at £282.4 million.

An anonymous Swiss dealer suggested this slump is a result of changes in the country’s banking laws. “Switzerland has dropped its banking secrecy laws and that means an end to anonymity, so companies can no longer conceal their ultimate beneficiaries”, the dealer commented.

The global online art market concurrently recorded an increase in sales by 9.8% at $4.64 billion (£3.5 billion) in 2018. But according to the seventh annual Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2019, this was a slowdown in growth dropping from 12% in 2017.

Despite these promising global increases, levels are yet to reach peaks seen in 2015 when the global art market flourished at a rate of 24%.

2018 was not a game changing year and we wait to see where the consolidation and casualties will be in a market place that clearly remains overcrowded”, stated Robert Read, Hiscox Head of Fine Art.

Notably, the online art market has recently trailed behind e-commerce retail, which saw a growth of 18% last year. This online shift is most likely a result of three factors; big spenders becoming more comfortable buying art online, millennial collectors buying more frequently and auction houses and galleries launching online viewing rooms.

And in the final section of the Hiscox report, Read asserted that the foreseen influence of Blockchain within the global art market in 2018 disappointed many; “Blockchain has been much talked about, often incomprehensibly, and has proved to be a bit of a damp squib”, he said.

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