Brexit & The Art Market: Is There Room for Optimism?

Three years on from the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, what has the concrete impact on the art market been and is there still a reason to be optimistic?

6 February, 2023

Back in 2021, we listed a few predictions on how Brexit would affect the art market, some of which included a loss of the UK’s competitive advantage, difficulty in forming international collaborations and a drop in interest for British art. Three years on from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the effects of this decision are being felt across all industries, and we have seen several of our predictions become a reality. In this article, we assess what has the concrete impact of Brexit on the art market been so far and whether, amongst the pessimistic news headlines, there is still room for optimism. 

The start of 2023 has been governed by uncertainty for the art market. For one, the UK art fair landscape is looking drastically different, this year, as Masterpiece, and more recently, the Art & Antiques Fair Olympia, have cancelled their summer events in London, citing ‘escalating costs’ and a ‘lack of dealer commitment’ (Anny Shaw, The Art Newspaper). Both organisers made it very clear that Brexit was the root cause of their withdrawals, with Masterpiece particularly hinting at a lack of attendance of European collectors due to the travel complications of Brexit. The cancellation of Masterpiece hit the London art crowd particularly hard, as Head of Sales and modern British and 20th-century art specialist at Roseberys William Summerfield states, “The fair had a very particular style that was entirely ‘Chelsea’ and I think a lot of non-'artworld’ buyers and visitors were more comfortable with (it) than some of the other, larger fairs” (as cited in Kakar, Artsy). The wide-reaching fear now is that losing such major events can lead to the cancellation of other key fairs for London and the wider UK market. This is a question that is currently left unanswered.