Brexit uncertainty for art collectors - key questions answered

February 13, 2019

It is no surprise that the potential effects of Brexit are already being felt around the art world. Despite the deadline quickly approaching, there is a notable absence of information regarding what Brexit will mean for collectors.

Many questions surround the withdrawal of free movement and, in some instances, the introduction of import/export permits. Provenance in a post-Brexit UK is also causing unease. As the only art-handling business to have storage and handling facilities in both the UK and across mainland Europe, Crown Fine Art is hearing many of these concerns first hand and are able to help.

This Q&A shares the knowledge of David Preston, Head of Crown Fine Art UK, and Jean-Paul Speelman, Manager at Crown Fine Art in the Netherlands. They explore the problems and challenges caused by Brexit uncertainty and what collectors can do.

What type of collectors will be affected by Brexit?

While we still don’t know what Brexit will entail, it is safe to say any individual wanting to move art across borders, whether personally or as a loan to an exhibition, is likely to be affected. From small-scale collectors with few objects to large-scale collectors with significant investments, we advise them to begin thinking about what Brexit could mean now.

Is Brexit affecting how people transport and store art?

There’s a fear that a hard Brexit will mean new legislation and individual import/export agreements with countries. We have seen a rise in enquiries for artwork being moved until there is a clearer picture as to what is happening. There are also many collectors that have kept art in the UK for a long time and are very reluctant to move it, or want to move it back into the UK. However, the growing trend of art being moved across borders is likely to continue as uncertainty remains.

Will Brexit make it more difficult to move art from country to country?

It is likely there will be some initial problems regardless of what kind of deal is reached. We could possibly see  changes in the customs import tax rate on artworks being transported across borders. This would undoubtedly change buying habits and the way art moves, with also the possibility of incurring increased costs. However, the impact of these changes could depend on what final deal is struck. Nonetheless, in the event of a no-deal, museums and the government will continue to support the movement of art between the EU and UK in the form of lending and borrowing for exhibitions.

Crown Fine Art has expertise handling, moving and storing art throughout Europe and overseas. We are currently able to pack, ship and deliver art to anywhere in the world in approximately 12-days or less – regardless of size or volume. Whilst this timescale may be affected by Brexit, we are confident that our unique position in the UK and Europe gives us a distinct advantage and our clients greater comfort. It will enable us to continue making the physical storage and movement of art simple and economical regardless of what Brexit brings.

Will Brexit affect issues surrounding art provenance?

It’s vital for collectors to be able to provide provenance for each piece of art they own and have a documented history of its movement and origin. While Brexit will not change this, a hard Brexit could mean all such related laws would have to be reviewed with individual countries. Faced with the possibility of being unable to move their art, even temporarily, collectors are looking at cross border storage as a short-term solution.

What can collectors do to better prepare for Brexit?

Whilst developing a comprehensive plan is virtually impossible until an actual deal is struck between the UK and Europe, collectors can make basic preparations. These include ensuring all relevant paperwork (shipping notes, invoices, inventories and delivery documents) are up-to-date and in order. Time should be given to creating or updating the collection catalogue sooner rather than later, as this can be time consuming. This is something Crown Fine Art can help clients to do.

How can Crown Fine Art help clients as a result of Brexit?

Firstly, we are the only art handler to have its own designated storage facilities across mainland Europe. As such, we are best placed to hear concerns from collectors and businesses across the region. These European storage facilities enable us to be a one stop storage and transport company for many clients. And, whilst we still don’t know what Brexit will entail, in the event of a no-deal, museums and the government are putting plans in place. This is to ensure the continued support of the movement of art in the form of lending and borrowing for exhibitions between the EU and the UK. 

Secondly, being an agile company allows us to much more quickly adapt to market changes, with country managers meeting regularly to discuss issues like these.

Is storage recommended ahead of Brexit?

A growing number of collectors are considering where best to store their collection until legislation becomes clearer. However, many  collectors are finding planning difficult and are questioning where they should store their art and what access they will have. Our extensive storage network means our clients are able to store their art in locations of their choice. And they can easily transport it between different countries and facilities, including the Middle East and Asia.

Why store art with Crown Fine Art?

Brexit aside, one of the biggest benefits of storing art is the peace-of-mind it provides. Collectors know their art is safe and secure, but access to it is easy whenever needed. They can also continue collecting without the worry of running out of space. And, when they need to move pieces for whatever reason, all of the logistics are expertly managed.

For extra peace of mind, all of our facilities are of the same quality and have ‘bonded’ customs status where import taxes can be suspended indefinitely. State of the art security, restricted access, humidity and temperature controls ensure our clients’ works of art are kept safe and preserved at all times.

Take a look at our storage facility in central London

What other services are available at these storage facilities?

Crown Fine Art has, and takes, complete control over all its storage facilities. We ensure each client has a dedicated single point of contact and advice tailored to their needs. Everything we do adheres to security and environmental protection standards. Our exclusive viewing rooms are an added bonus. With no communal spaces we guarantee complete privacy at all times. This eliminates the need for constant chaperoning whilst onsite. As well as offering private viewings and sales facilities, we can also create insurance reports and conduct photography on site too.

What should collectors do if they are concerned about Brexit?

Speak to us. We’d be more than happy to discreetly help any collector with impartial, expert advice without obligation. We’re constantly monitoring the likely impacts of Brexit as things develop so for the latest advice please do get in touch.

The interviewees:

David Preston has over two decades of experience in the art industry and has worked with some of the world’s most prestigious private collectors and galleries. A founding member of Professional Advisors to the International Market (PAIAM), David also sits on a government Brexit advisory board – reporting directly to the UK’s Minister of Art Office. For questions or enquiries, contact David at dpreston@crownww.com

Jean-Paul Speelman has more than 25-years of experience in the industry. Before joining Crown Fine Art, Jean-Paul was the owner of Art Handling Services – a Dutch company acquired by Crown Fine Art in 2018 – a company specialising in the Commercial Galleries and Storage sectors. For questions or enquiries, contact Jean-Paul at jspeelman@crownww.com

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