Shops and auction houses can now open to the public in Scotland and Ireland (from June 29) and hotels and restaurants can reopen in July.
The easing of restrictions for the hospitality industry will enable the trade and buyers to travel further to fairs, markets, shops and auctions. It will also encourage domestic tourism.
Hotels and many hospitality businesses can reopen from June 29 in Ireland, July 4 in England, July 3 in Northern Ireland and July 15 in Scotland.
Freya Simms, chief executive of dealer association LAPADA, said: “Our members (in common with much of the trade) are generally located in culturally rich destinations and visitor hot-spots.
“The reopening of the hospitality sector from pubs and restaurants to museums and galleries is welcomed by our members in anticipation that this will start to bring much needed traffic back to high streets and into shops and galleries across the UK.”
Lawrences of Crewkerne’s Helen Carless, chairman of Society of Fine Art Auctioneers (SOFAA), said: “With hotels and restaurants now able to open this is bound to increase the level of optimism and that can only be a good thing for auctioneers and the wider art world in general.”
However, there are concerns that some remaining restrictions are problematic for the trade.
Mark Dodgson, secretary general of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA), said: “Let’s hope the re-opening of the staycation market results in more visits to dealers based in rural locations.
“However, the two-week quarantine restrictions for those arriving from outside the UK are a major impediment. “Unless a more nuanced approach is taken by the government, well-off, older collectors from abroad will be unlikely to visit this country.
“Overseas nationals with apartments in London are unlikely to make the trip if they have to lock themselves indoors for two weeks.”
Scotland and Ireland emerge
The easing of government restrictions in Scotland will allow for the reopening of art and antiques shops, outdoor markets and auction houses to the public from June 29.
Gavin Strang, managing director of Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, said: “We are currently instal ling al l necessary safeguards. To limit visitor numbers all client visits will be by appointment.” L&T is to trial room bidding with pre-booked spaces for limited numbers at its Scottish Pictures sale on July 15.
Ireland and Northern Ireland also reopened shops, outdoor markets and auction houses in June.
Adam’s in Dublin is allowing viewings by appointment only. Its July 5 ‘At Home’ interiors sale will have a limited audience in the room.
James O’Halloran, managing director at Adam’s, told ATG: “A lot of businesses will be able to recommence activities as the number of individuals in an indoor setting will be increased to 50.
“In order to create more floorspace we have reduced the number of lots in this July 5 sale to about 350 rather than 500.
“We are very excited to be back up and running after a three-month shutdown, something that the firm has never encountered before in our 133 years of business.”
Staying online only
Derek Gormley at Gormleys Auctions in Dublin and Belfast said: “We have reopened our salerooms and viewings are by appointment only. We will not be holding room bidding, only by phone and online.
“We are using an augmented reality app called Art Visualiser and an online viewing room so customers can view digitally before bidding. Online sales have been very successful and we may not go back to room bidding at all.”
Angus Clarke of Ross’s in Belfast is also doing viewings by appointment only and may not return to room bidding as its online auctions have performed so well.
Other restrictions that will ease from July 4 in England is the reduction of the 2m social distancing rule to 1m-plus. Many museums and galleries are also reopening.
In Wales, dealers were able to reopen on June 22. However, auction houses remain on the list of businesses whose premises are yet to reopen to the public along with museums, restaurants and hotels.
Auctions are still taking place but without room bidding.
Rogers Jones has sales scheduled for June 30 and July 3 with bids invited online and via commission.
The easing of restrictions are subject to change and firms must comply with social distancing and health and safety measures for clients and staff to limit the spread of the coronavirus.