British art exports have hit a peak, not seen since the market crashed in 2008. The popularity of London as a second home for wealthy Russians, Middle Eastern and Americans has driven the auction market, which is the barometer for UK art sales. The value of art exports leaving the UK surged by £500 million, a third higher over the past year, with foreign buyers paying £2bn for art and cultural exports in the year to May 2012, according to legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell. The value of art and cultural objects exported from Britain rose by 32 percent.
The rise came despite the implementation of the Droit de Suite a 4% resale tax which goes to the artists or heirs of the artists. “Art experts and dealers were cautious that London’s position in the art world would suffer unlike New York or China where they haven’t introduced a levy on the resale of modern and contemporary art.The Artist’s Resale Rights Directive came into effect at the start of 2012. June’s powerful sales were a testament to the nation’s overall improvement in trade balance, according to the government.
Melanie Gerlis, art market editor at the Art Newspaper, said: “June really was the busiest art market month I have ever known and London is the second-biggest trading hub for art behind New York. £500m doesn’t seem that outrageous.”
The HMRC’s figures illustrate that more than 3/4 of the works of art exported went to Switzerland and the United States, during June, although the Asian market seems to be increasingly influential.