Thursday - 23 October 2014

Customs figures reinforce UK’s status in international art market

25 March 2013Written by Ivan Macquisten

The annual cross-border customs figures have reinforced the United Kingdom’s status as one of the world’s two leading entrepot markets for art and antiques.

As our tables below show, global exports were up for 2012 by nearly 40% at just under £4.5bn, while imports climbed 20% to almost £4.7bn.

The USA remains Britain's most important trading partner by far, with Switzerland and Hong Kong vying for second place, the former surging back as far Eastern markets softened throughout the year.

At the same time, though, what appears to be an anomaly shows a 604% rise in antiques imports to the UK from China. However, this may reflect the value of works on loan for exhibition as well as those imported for sale.

Although these figures assess the value of art and antiques moved across UK borders, rather than that bought and sold, they give a clear indication of market forces. First and foremost, they underscore how resilient the international art market has been in a persistently weak global economy, and how strongly it has grown.

Exports to China

The details make for some interesting reading. The fall in exports of antiques to mainland China, for instance, is accompanied by a smaller increase in similar exports to Hong Kong. This may well reflect the softening of the Asian art market in the past year, but it may also indicate that more trade is being diverted to Hong Kong, where tax and import regulations are more lax.

Singapore, home to a nascent freeport, saw an 18% rise in pictures exported from the UK.

Exports to Russia fell across the board, while imports of pictures from there rose by almost 60%.

Imports from the EU are now more than three times the size of exports by value, though the latter have grown by more than half in 2012.

Exports of pictures to the US, which broke through the £1bn barrier in 2011, went up by nearly 50% to pass £1.6bn in 2012, while picture imports to the UK from the US stayed slightly ahead of exports with a rise of almost 30%.

South America

Significant trade with Mexico in 2011, thought to reflect the museum endowments of the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, have withered away in the past year. At the same time, Brazil has started to show up as a significant player, registering £28.7m in picture exports from the UK. How much the newly burgeoning Rio De Janeiro Contemporary art fair accounts for this is not clear.

Australia, noted for riding out the global slump with a strong economy, sees a 75% rise in picture exports from the UK.

Norway, also noted for the robustness of its economy, returns as a significant player in both picture imports and exports.

 

UK Art and Antiques Global Trade Figures for 2012

Figures in brackets show the percentage relationship with the previous year

 

Exports 2012

ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old): £602.5m (+15.5%)

FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age): £3865.6m (+41.8%)

TOTAL EXPORTS: £4468.1m (+37.6%)

 

Exports 2012

ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old): £487.7m (+21.2%)

FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age): £4180.5m (+20.1%)

TOTAL IMPORTS: £4668.2m (+20.2%)

 

 

ATG Trade Figures - non-EU Countries

 

Exports 2012

ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old): £589.2m (+15.9%)

FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age): £3733.5m (+41.2%)

TOTAL EXPORTS: £4322.7m (+37.1%)

 

UK EXPORTS OF ANTIQUES TO:

USA: £271.4m (+17.3%)

Switzerland: £97.3m (+139.1%)

Hong Kong: £87.5m (+9.9%)

Qatar: £25.3m (+7.7%)

Taiwan: £14.7m (+58.1%)

China: £14.4m (-59.8%)

Singapore: £11.1m (n/a)

Australia: £10.8m (+13.7%)

Japan: £9.6m (+9.1%)

Russia: £8.6m (-78.9%)

 

UK EXPORTS OF PICTURES TO:

USA: £1600.0m (+47.8%)

Switzerland: £850.4m (+36.9%)

Hong Kong: £110.5m (-22.8%)

Russia: £38.4m (-27.0%)

Australia: £29.4m (+75.0%)

Singapore: £29.2m (+18.2%)

Brazil: £28.7m (n/a)

Turkey: £26.3m (n/a)

Norway: £20.9m (n/a)

South Korea: £18.1m (n/a)

 

 

Imports 2012

ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old): £459.1m (+31.5%)

FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age): £3752.4m (+19.7%)

TOTAL IMPORTS: £4211.5m (+20.9%)

 

UK IMPORTS OF ANTIQUES FROM:

USA: £285.5m (+22.7%)

China: £58.4m (+603.6%)

Switzerland: £46.8m (+4.7%)

Hong Kong: £20.2m (-12.9%)

UAE: £10.1m (n/a)

Bahamas: £8.0m (n/a)

Australia: £6.0 (n/a)

Japan: £5.3m (+35.9%)

Canada: £4.1m (+64.0%)

Iran: £3.2m (+3.2%)

 

UK IMPORTS OF PICTURES FROM:

USA: £1662.4m (+29.1%)

Switzerland: £903.2m (+8.4%)

Hong Kong: £105.2m (+21.2%)

Norway: £72.8m (+600.0%)

Russia: £50.2m (+57.9%)

Japan: £34.9m (+37.4%)

UAE: £34.2m (+307.1%)

China: £26.9m (n/a)

Australia: £17.8m (+97.8%)

Brazil: £8.8m (n/a)

 

 

ATG Trade Figures - EU Countries

 

Exports 2012

ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old): £13.3m (+0.8%)

FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age): £132.1m (+62.1%)

TOTAL EXPORTS: £145.4m (+53.5%)

 

UK EXPORTS OF ANTIQUES TO:

France: £7.8m (+143.7%)

Italy: £1.6m (+100.0%)

Germany: £1.2m (-82.6%)

Belgium: £1.0m (n/a)

Austria: £0.9m (n/a)

 

UK EXPORTS OF PICTURES TO:

Italy: £40.7m (n/a)

Germany: £21.3m (+69.0%)

France: £15.4m (+38.7%)

Belgium: £6.8m (n/a)

Netherlands: £6.2m (-8.8%)

 

 

Imports 2012

ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old): £28.6m (-46.4%)

FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age): £428.1m (+23.9%)

TOTAL IMPORTS: £456.7m (+14.5%)

 

UK IMPORTS OF ANTIQUES FROM:

Netherlands: £17.4m (+70.6%)

France: £8.5m (+13.3%)

Irish Republic: £1.0m (n/a)

Belgium: £0.8m (n/a)

Germany: £0.6m (-57.1%)

 

UK IMPORTS OF PICTURES FROM:

Netherlands: £177.1m (+285.8%)

France: £97.0m (+12.4%)

Germany: £70.6m (+211.0%)

Italy: £28.3m (n/a)

Belgium: £2.2m (n/a)

 

All the trade figures that appear on these pages are based on raw data from HMRC.

Analysis and comparisons by Antiques Trade Gazette for ATG Media © 2013

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top