Sign O’ the Times
The Art of Decision Making (for Art)
Although football might not exactly be our “DADA” (;)) we’ve now entered “squeaky-bum time” in UK — the week where critical decisions will be made, somewhat finally-ish.
Case you need a quick recap, here is how things are scheduled to unfold:
1. On Tuesday, Parliament will vote for a second time on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
2. If Theresa loses, on Wednesday, Parliament will vote on whether to remove the option of a no-deal Brexit.
3. Thursday Parliament will vote on whether to delay Brexit.
Much of the Art World is nervous about what Brexit means for the UK market: border delays, import duty and the perception of London no longer being able to fulfil its role as an International HQ for dealing in the Trade of Art are just a few of the concerns.
The Art Newspaper reports that various galleries and arts outfits are shipping works between the European Union before the deadline of the 29th of March to escape some of the consequences of the departure.
Freak out, The Biennale’s coming up. In the EU.
The British Council is sending works included in Cathy Wilkes’s British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale to Italy, and organisers for the Irish Pavilion are also sending works by Eva Rothschild as soon as they can. Getting them back, well, that’s another “a ffair”, pun intended.
So far, most of what we have to wrap our “art loving minds” around is uncertainty and speculation as to how the UK’s departure from the EU will affect the Market.
But perhaps we can reverse the approach — What if we looked to the Art World to see what it reveals about our environment of uncertainty? Now would seem like a great time to use the Art World as the barometer of public discourse and observe how we are taking the pulse of our culture now through the Arts. What is being spoken about? What is censored?
Brexit is juicy Topic for British & European Artists
Street Art aside, artists have been able to comment on the state of unrest felt by out collective consciousness, reminding us of how powerful the voice of artists activists can be. We’ve collated a few key pieces for you.
Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger has created a new anti-Brexit poster campaign, featuring prime minister Theresa May and the words of 17th century radical Gerrard Winstanley; due to appear in billboards across London and other main cities in the UK. Exciting times, and expect the gram to be full of #Wallinger.
Artwork from Brexit Bingo evening hosted by Michael Landy and Gillian Wearing for the annual Contemporary Art Society’s Artist’s Table dinner to raise funds for the CAS’s charitable work. Their views are pretty clear at the Drawing Biennale.
BT Phone home — The Public (the 48% we assume) will be able to leave messages about Brexit in Joe Sweeny’s 1990 phone booth on the Kent coast.
The phone box lights up at night like a beacon “standing at the edge of the UK looking out towards Europe” — audiences will be able to watch a live stream of the phone box which will be broadcast on the website during the 28 days that it is installed on the beach. “I also wanted the weather to reflect the constantly shifting sands we’re experiencing and the resulting sense of uncertainty that has been one of the inspirations for this project.” Said Sweeney.
Operation Earnest Voice (2019)
Swedish multimedia artist Jonas Lund has set up Operation Earnest Voice, a “fully functioning propaganda office”, at the Photographers Gallery with a singular but playful aim: to use the technology and devices that were utilised during the Brexit referendum debate to stop it from happening.
“As we’ve seen with the different Brexit campaigns, the use of targeted ads and companies like Cambridge Analytica have manufactured consent -Art has the privilege of not needing to provide solutions but rather point towards and explore further problematics, and that’s a great way towards new ways of thinking and organization,” says Lund
The UK Art market is doing… Alright. Kind of.
According to the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market report the UK overtook China as the second largest market for art sales worldwide “despite Brexit”, according to the new report. Sales in the UK rose by 8% in 2018 to just under 14 billion US dollars (£10.6 billion), while many of the larger European markets shrunk.
However, the EU’s market share has fallen to a 10-year low of 32 per cent and is heavily reliant on the regulation-friendly UK (whose global share grew to 21 per cent).
British dealers that she interviewed last year felt that larger businesses, with multiple galleries and less intra-EU trade, would be relatively unaffected by Brexit, and perhaps even benefit, while smaller businesses, “particularly those with less capital to ride out any periods of volatility”, could feel the pressure.
The interesting polarisations to note and what they mean are that gallery sales for works over $1m accounted for 40 per cent of value but only 3 per cent of transactions. Auction business in 2018 was even more extreme: sales over $1m accounted for 1 per cent of volume but translated to 61 per cent of value.
Co-Ownership of important Artworks… A mitigation tactic?
The democratisation of Art Ownership and decoupling the Art Work from the need to be shipped is somewhat of an antidote to some of the market stresses felt and mentioned in the press. By investing in Art that remains in a Museum, you have most of the benefits of your investment and less of the inconveniences of Brexit.
Shown at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj you can visit your investment in Rome, and enjoy the benefits of becoming an art collector here.
The only certainty is further uncertainty.
Whatever the situation progresses towards, there are a few little “safety nets”. The Arts Council England has published a guide on how to deal with a “no deal” Brexit. Its not super extensive, but perhaps that’s optimism for you.
Laura Dyer, a deputy chief executive of the council, says that “it is important that arts and cultural organisations are prepared for the possibility of a no deal scenario”. In which case we can be ready for more important art being made to reflect the culture as well as a boom in finding new ways to invest in important works.
For now, we sign off with the Sign O The Times.
Happy squeeky-bum time, fingers crossed!