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With exports in the same sector up 12.5 per cent, fine art movement overshadowed imports and exports of antiques, whose value fell by five and six per cent respectively.

The figures reflect the value of goods moved rather than traded, but significant trends are likely to indicate emerging strengths and weaknesses across the markets.

Looking at the table published below, there is a clear trend of pictures moving from the US to the UK. It is probable that the strengthening pound explains at least part of the increase in absolute terms.

But the trend also supports general market observations that stringent US import controls, red tape and federal finance laws are not only encouraging the wealthy to spend their money elsewhere – namely London – but are also persuading consignors of top-end art that the UK is the place to sell.

This does not explain the significant rise in the export of antiques to the US, however. The increase of nearly a third on 2005 flies in the face of the slight overall drop in the sector.

Other dramatic percentage changes are mostly linked to low absolute figures, and can possibly be explained by the movement of single-owner collections or major purchases.

Other notable trends include the emergence of the Ukraine and Georgia as significant players in addition to Russia, and the dramatic fall in business being done with Qatar.

There are also the beginnings of direct movement between China and the UK, although Hong Kong remains pre-eminent as the Far Eastern market centre, its entrepôt status catching up on that of Switzerland as far as antiques are concerned.

The latter makes a very strong showing as a source of pictures, however, the figure of £482.6m not only representing a 43 per cent increase on 2005, but also accounting for nearly a quarter of all fine art imports to the UK from outside the EU.

Worthy of note, but not on the table, are the picture figures for India, which fall just outside the top ten, with imports to the UK valued at £6.2m and exports to India at £4.4m.

Also not appearing on the table but still of significance is the £44.5m worth of sculpture or statuary imported to the UK from Belize.

Ivan Macquisten

UK ART AND ANTIQUES EXPORTS AND IMPORTS TO & FROM NON-EU COUNTRIES

Figures in brackets show the percentage relationship with the previous year

EXPORTS 2006
ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old)
£721.2m (-6.1%)
FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age) £2371.6m (+19.7%)
TOTAL EXPORTS £3092.8m (+12.5%)

IMPORTS 2006
ANTIQUES (objects over 100 years old) £291.0m (-5.0%)
FINE ART (pictures, prints, sculpture, any age) £2132.1m (+55.1%)
TOTAL IMPORTS £2423.1m (+44.1%)

UK EXPORTS OF PICTURES TO:
USA £931.9m (-19.6%)
Switzerland £433.5m (+4.0%)
Canada £37.5m (+331.0%)
Australia £34.1m (+100.6%)
Hong Kong £33.2m (+98.8%)
Russia £21.4m (+50.7%)
Japan £9.9m (-10.8%)
Ukraine £9.1m (n/a)
South Korea £6.7m (+26.4%)
Liechtenstein £6.0m (n/a)

UK IMPORTS OF PICTURES FROM:
USA £844.9m (+14.5%)
Switzerland £482.6m (+43.0%)
Hong Kong £25.1m (+512.2%)
Mexico £14.8m (n/a)
Japan £10.2m (n/a)
China £9.6m (n/a)
Australia £9.1m (-13.3%)
Russia £8.8m (n/a)
Brazil £7.9m (n/a)
Norway £7.1m (n/a)

UK EXPORTS OF ANTIQUES TO:
USA £570.4m (+32.7%)
Switzerland £38.1m (-67.5%)
Hong Kong £33.3m (-69.8%)
Australia £14.6m (+27.0%)
Japan £9.7m (-51.7%)
Norway £6.4m (n/a)
Qatar £5.5m (-83.7%)
Russia £5.4m (-18.2%)
Canada £5.1m (=)
Liechtenstein £3.7m (n/a)

UK IMPORTS OF ANTIQUES FROM:
USA £228.1m (-0.6%)
Switzerland £23.8m (-30.4%)
Hong Kong £15.8m (-21.4%)
Japan £6.5m (-15.6%)
Australia £5.0m (+2.0%)
Russia £2.3m (n/a)
Dubai £2.2m (+15.8%)
Norway £1.4m (n/a)
Canada £1.1m (=)
China £0.9m (=)

These figures are based on UK overseas trade statistics. Analysis and comparisons by Antiques Trade Gazette © 2007