Good morning. I am delighted to be with you today for the launch of the latest economic survey of the UK art market by Dr. Clare McAndrew.
Thank you to Anthony Browne for inviting me to join you and to say a few words.
Anthony regularly comes to brief the Secretary of State, our officials, and me on the state of the art market, and the challenges facing it — As well he should as the issue is an asset of huge national importance.
There’s the economic impact, of course — providing direct employment to tens of thousands of highly-skilled people, and supporting almost as many jobs again in the ancillary businesses which provide the specialist skills it draws on.
There’s the fiscal contribution of some £1.5 billion, and the great benefit to the Exchequer of being a global hub for the international trade — with billions of pounds’ worth of works of art being imported and exported across our borders each year.
There’s the soft power of being the marketplace for some of the world’s most important artworks, antiques, and antiquities – and sharing the UK’s extraordinary creativity with ever larger audiences around the world.
There’s the magnetic effect it has for our visitor economy — something on fine display last month, as we marked 20 years of Frieze London, which the Prime Minister was proud to celebrate with a reception at 10 Downing Street.
The art market sustains and inspires so many wonderful exhibitions, art fairs, and other vibrant events which create additional spending and employment and attract tourists, both around the country and around the world.
Visitors to London during Frieze Week were spoiled for choice this year — with world-class exhibitions including Sarah Lucas at Tate Britain, Marina Abramović at the Royal Academy, Claudette Johnson at the Courtauld, and Frans Hals at the National Gallery — and that’s only mentioning a handful in Zone One.
That reflects the wider, and integral role the UK art market plays in our cultural life.
Our commercial galleries and dealers play a vital role in nurturing the careers of the UK’s visual artists. That’s why London has the greatest concentration of artists of any city anywhere in the world – and why so many other towns and cities across the country are similarly fizzing with artistic talent.
And I am very grateful for the expertise of the many art market professionals who advise my Department on cultural property matters.
So today is a chance for me to say thank you for the part you all contribute to that global success story.
And it is, of course, a moment to ensure we are doing everything we can to maintain it.
Today, we have the second largest art market in the world – behind only the United States, and larger than the rest of Europe put together.
But the global market is increasingly competitive – and that position is not ours by rights.
Dr. McAndrew’s report has charted the extraordinary resilience of the UK art market as it bounces back from the bleak months of the pandemic.
It has been able to draw on its great wealth of expertise and dynamism to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 – and those will be invaluable resources to draw on as it faces the challenges of the future.
But Government must play its part too. That is why I am glad to join you today – and glad to have ongoing relationship we do with the British Art Market Federation reassure you that we recognise what a great asset we have in the UK art market, and that we stand behind the sector as it works to retain its international competitive edge – and to remain a great British success story long into the future.
I know, from my conversations with Anthony and others, that leaving the European Union has brought new processes, not all of them favourable.
But having sovereign control of our borders has also brought the opportunity to innovate; to review and refine our customs rules.
We have already revoked the EU Regulation which will require import licences and importer statements for many cultural goods when it comes into effect in 2025, so that it will not apply to imports into Great Britain.
Our ambition is to have the world’s most effective border – and I am grateful to all those who have already made time to engage with our officials on the development of the new Single Trade Window.
That will provide a gateway between businesses and our border processes and systems – including, in time, export licences which I am glad to say are in the process of being digitised by our colleagues at the Arts Council.
This will allow people to meet their import, export and transit obligations by submitting information once, and in one place.
We are also reviewing Temporary Admission to reduce administrative burdens and simplify the rules – further evidence, I hope you will agree, that the Government is listening to the UK art market.
We know that you make frequent use of the Temporary Admission procedure, and are grateful for the constructive approach taken by the British Art Market Federation and art market practitioners in their responses to the recent public consultation.
We are considering what you have told us carefully and plan further engagement, including with the art market, in the New Year. So please do keep talking to us about it.
So I hope you will see that the Government is watching not just with pride at what we have at present, but a determination to preserve it – and with appreciation for all the evidence you bring to us which helps us in our conversations across government.
Chief among that, of course, is Dr. McAndrew’s annual report – an invaluable source of information, So I’m delighted to be here today and looking forward to hearing the evidence within it.
Thanks for having me.