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The dealer view

Rebecca Davies, chief executive, LAPADA

We operate in a sector that has been active for hundreds of years, trading in items that have been around for even longer. In the event of Brexit, what do we think will change?

Some pundits claim that the pound may lose value against the euro, which means that art and antiques purchased from the UK would become even better value for money for a European audience, with whom dealers will doubtless continue to foster good relations.

Some say that we might face trade barriers if we leave the single market, making it more difficult to conduct business abroad.

Dealers have been fighting an uphill battle in many areas, but they are a resilient bunch. Those that adapt to changing times are the ones that continue to prosper.

No one really knows what Brexit will mean for the UK economy or for the future of trade or regulations. But we do know that art and antiques are well known for being a stable investment in a volatile (or indeed stagnant) economy. Even better, they offer the owner the opportunity to live with and appreciate their investment.

Whatever might happen in the political landscape, I feel confident that LAPADA members are dealing in great things, and there will always be a market for great things.

Owning a piece of history, investing in an artwork that is unique, buying an item of furniture that has withstood the test of time – these are the key messages that need to be directed to the public, whether we are ‘In’ or ‘Out’.

The auctioneer view

Vicki Wonfor, director, Roseberys

Auction houses are already responding to changing consumer needs, and this will continue regardless of the UK’s EU status.

Auctions are one of the oldest forms of commerce and will thrive in one form or another, as was evident in the 2008 recession. At that time we saw a distinct market shift, with buyers only making big investments in good quality commercial items and not in speculative and lower-value items.

This trend continues today and while Brexit may create economic uncertainty, it may not make much difference to auctions.

That’s because the auction sector is having to constantly evolve to respond to consumer demands, be these trend-related or a desire to bid online from their homes or offices.

It’s quite clear with the rise of internet bidding, auction rooms providing more attractive premises and a move towards specialist auctions rather than mixed discipline sales, that auctioneers are adept at reacting to market forces. 

If we do exit the EU, an immediate short term consequence is, of course, likely to be a lack of confidence and fall in the value of the pound. Is this likely to affect the antiques trade? Perhaps in a localised way, as there may be a lower level of disposable monetary assets in the UK.

However, it may conversely lead to more international clients buying from UK auction rooms, as they will benefit from the strength of their currency against sterling.

Although this may in turn have a negative affect for the UK trade, for vendors it is possible they will not feel the squeeze in the same manner.