Brexit Art: The Art World Responds
Brexit has rocked not only the country but the entire world. The repercussions have been felt in a wide range of sectors and opinions on the UK’s departure from the EU have been vociferous. As ever, the art world has been publically expressing their views on the matter through a variety of different mediums.
Art is considered by many to be a global conversation, a way of uniting people from all walks of life all over the world. Many artists have expressed their dismay at the Brexit vote, viewing it as against this idea of unity, especially as the driving force behind the Leave campaign was the issue of immigration. Prominent graffiti artist Banksy even created a poignant piece in Dover, displaying a metalworker removing a star on the EU flag. The artwork emerged overnight near to the ferry terminal which connects the UK to mainland Europe. This crossing is significant as it is across the channel from Calais, the contentious site of the Calais refugee camp, where another Banksy mural appeared in 2015. Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones believes that the post-Brexit art world will certainly become “smaller, narrower and uglier,” and given some economic implications, he may be right.
The EU makes up 59% of all international activity in the UK arts sector, which is also the fastest growing sector in the UK, worth more than £80 billion each year. The UK currently receives 12.47% (€40 million) of the Creative Europe budget, despite only paying in 10.7%, and this programme supported 230 British cultural organisations in 2015 to help maintain the UK’s leading creative reputation. Without EU funding and assistance, it appears that UK art sector will indeed struggle in the coming months ahead, yet there are, however, still many within the art economy of the UK who believe that Brexit is a good idea, and an opportunity to establish the competitiveness of the UK art market.
Britain’s position as a world leader in art and culture is longstanding, and predates the EU. Many argue that this is unlikely to change as our reputation precedes us. There will certainly be benefits to leaving the EU; the British art trade will not be encumbered by EU-imposed tariffs and regulations on importing from outside the EU, and a cheaper pound also helps many art dealers to sell more art. Indeed, since the referendum caused a decline in pound-sterling currency, Britain has become an incredibly attractive market for buyers in the USA and China. The success of recent high-end auctions at Sotheby’s, Christies and Phillips, which raised a collective £299 million compared with the £152.2 million of the previous year can also not be disputed.
While the true ramifications of Brexit are as of yet unknown, within the arts sector there does remain some hope. It might be a golden opportunity indeed for the UK art sector to thrive and demonstrate its independence away from Europe imposed tariffs and regulations on artwork imported from outside the bloc. Or it might find itself struggling to support artists and maintain the reputation it is so fiercely proud of. Only time will tell and currently all we can do is wait.