Does this Change Everything? Fine Art Risk Management Post-Brexit

By Christopher Wise, Vice President

Does this Change Everything? Fine Art Risk Management Post-Brexit

Briton’s exit from the European Union has fundamentally changed the U.K’s relationship with the rest of the world. With Phase One of Brexit underway, how are artworks in transit to or from the U.K. affected? Does this change everything?

Thankfully, it seems the worst case scenarios have been avoided. The nightmare of shipping delays artwork marooned in customs warehouses, and the subsequent damage to high-priced art, have not come to fruition.

There are three phases to the Brexit deal. Phase One is underway. Phase Two does not have a significant effect on the transport/trade of artwork. However, Phase Three could bring unknown risks to artwork traveling into and out of the UK. In particular, we feel that one should be vigilant as the U.K. transitions to Phase Three, since it seems there is the possibility of significant delays to shipping and trade. These delays could put artwork at risk in sub-optimal locations or in the care of untrained freight handlers at key air and seaports.

Problems in Transit

From an insurance perspective, the biggest issue Brexit poses is that artwork could be exposed to damage from long delays in transit. As of Phase One, these delays have not been realized, but there is uncertainty with Phase Three. During Phase Three, normal cross-border enforcement will begin. Customs Brokers are unsure of exactly how this will affect art shipments. Because art shipments transit under T1 customs forms, Custom’s clearance usually takes place at a museum or Customs Brokers’ warehouse. Post-Brexit, agents are not sure how or if these procedures will change. Fortunately, the customs brokers we surveyed, don’t anticipate delays. Generally, T1 shipments, including fine art transports, are allowed through the “green lane” (a lane that does not require a stop at Customs).We are hopefully that the expedited T1 green lane status will allow high value fine art shipments to avoid the legenthy delays and lines we’ve seen in news reports..

As we know, most damage to artwork happens in transit. Even when a piece is moved from one room to another in a collector’s home, the risk of damage is high. A stray nail, slip of the hand, misplaced fingerprint, can cause expensive damage to fine art. Professional fine art shippers take extensive measures to ensure the safety of artwork in transit and handling. However, the longer a piece is in transit, the greater the risk of accidents.

It is important to keep in mind that oversized shipments frequently transit through continental Europe. This means artwork bound from New York, Hong Kong, Brazil or other locations must first arrive in Luxembourg or Germany. With the elimination of the single border, these shipments will now be subject to customs screening before arriving in the U.K. Moreover, this second leg from continental Europe is by truck, so U.K. customs delays could have artwork sitting in trucks or warehouses for an extended period.

How to Handle the Brexit Transition

During the implementation of Phase Two and Phase Three of Brexit, the best advice we can give is to choose your Customs Broker carefully. Your Customs Broker should specialize in art transport and be fluent in all things Brexit. We also recommend checking with the Arts Council England for their comprehensive Brexit Information where they publish best practices for the arts and Brexit.

Does this change everything? Surely not in the near-term. Longer term, the outlook is foggier. The biggest concern in the art world is that Brexit might undermine London as a global art capital. Long running art fairs like Freize London, the centuries old auction houses of Sotheby’sand Christie’s, and many leading dealers may find their position challenged by more integrated trading hubs of New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. With a small population and increasing barriers to trade, will dealer and collectors collectively decide to eschew London in favor of more easily accessible markets?

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