The Arts Need Europe vs The Reality Of A Looming Brexit


The nation has spoken. We are now on a trajectory which will unravel all of the work laid down by successive governments since the time of Winston Churchill. Britain has chosen to curl up in a ball and go it alone. But what does this mean for the art world? Will Berlin or Paris now return as the epicentres of art in Europe, as London becomes an outpost like Norway?

As I mentioned in my last article, this year alone I travelled to France, Spain, Germany and Italy for exhibitions and events covered by Artlyst. I can’t imagine shutting off this artery of free movement where British artists can’t just go to Berlin, live and work for a few months legally. We will now be returning to the days of having to acquire a visa or work permit each time you want to go and give a talk or exhibit your work in Europe. Not to mention exhibiting at international art fairs. Think logistically – FIAC in Paris or Frieze in London would be a nightmare scenario of border controls with customs and excise forms to decimate a rain forest. Every item would need to be bonded, imported and then exported if it remained unsold. 

The UK is currently the epicentre of the art market in Europe. Not only is Sotheby’s and Christie’s headquarters located in the capital, turning over billions of pounds but major international galleries have located to London because it is the most important financial city in Europe. Exit and the banks will follow. They already have Switzerland, Luxembourg and Monaco why would they need us? The big US banks also wanted us to remain in Europe. Has this been thought through?

The arts are always at the frontline of cuts. We have already seen our Chancellor George Osborne cut 30% of the arts budget as an austerity measure, in the last four years. As Britain prepares to exit Europe we are going to have to dig ourselves out of the largest sink hole since WWII. How do you think that’s going to affect you as an artist or art professional? Expect the already hands-tied arts council to be trussed up like a figure in a bondage magazine!

Now my final point. Clearly London lives in a bubble with an overwhelming vote to stay in the EU. Although many other cities in the UK voted stay, London as the centre for the arts in the UK will bear the brunt of many of the impending cuts that will take place under a new government led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove (no mention of Nigel f- – – – – g Farage). Prepare for the worst! I’m at a loss. I should have worked harder campaigning! And clearly never underestimate the British public, especially outside of London!!!

Words: Paul Carter Robinson Artlyst Editor