Art gallery sector trends

Group of friends looking at an art piece in an art gallery

(last updated July 2019)

Art has become more important as interest has grown in interior design and decor - and in art for art's sake. Investing in originals has become popular with wealthy buyers, while at the top end of the market the super-rich regularly pay record prices for fine art. Demand for affordable prints and reproductions, meanwhile, has also flourished. More and more businesses recognise the value of art too, with some using prints and reproductions to brighten up public areas and others commissioning original art.

The internet has become popular with both artists and galleries for marketing art works, and 'virtual galleries' have sprung up to offer sellers a new marketplace for their pieces.

Although foreign holidays are extremely popular, a number of the UK's seaside tourist towns have successfully re-invented themselves as upmarket short break destinations. In many of these towns there's a vibrant local art scene, and galleries benefit from the influx of tourists and day trippers.

Unfortunately it has not all been good news for the art business. The economy took a dive during the late 2000s and remained very weak into the early 2010s, and shoppers were quick to cut back on non-essential spending. 2013 did see some signs of an improvement though and this continued more strongly in 2014 and into the first half of 2015. The recovery slowed in the second half of 2015 and into 2016.

The vote in 2016 to leave the EU added a further degree of uncertainty to the economic outlook. Economic growth slowed in 2017 and 2018 as a result of a reduction in consumer spending caused by a squeeze on household spending power due to higher inflation and little growth in wages. It is expected that growth will remain subdued in 2019, with growth in earnings expected to show only a moderate increase. This and the uncertain economic picture are likely to result in both individuals and businesses once again cutting back on non-essential expenditure.

The fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote might bring some benefit, encouraging more overseas visitors with more to spend because of a favourable rate of exchange. They may be keen to buy pictures or artefacts by local artists as a memento of their trip.

Other developments in the art retailing business include:

  • the requirement under the Money Laundering Regulations for 'high value dealers' who transact sums of 10,000 euros (previously 15,000 euros) or more as part of their business to register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and to keep certain records relating to those transactions
  • the imposition of the droit de suite levy on art works sold in the UK, payable to the original artist (or to his or her estate) when a work of art is sold, with payments due to artists' heirs up to 70 years after their death
  • funding cuts for the arts during the economic downturn, with reductions in grants to major venues to provide more funds to encourage the arts in the regions and assist smaller organisations

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up with developments in your industry - and in the art world in general.

The Fine Art Trade Guild is an international trade organisation that aims to promote and develop the art and framing industry. You can find out more about the services they offer to members on their website.

The fine art market is represented by several specialist regional and national associations, including LAPADA and the Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD).

Trade journals

Subscribing to a trade journal is another good way of staying up to date. Art + Framing Today is a trade journal published by the Fine Art Trade Guild. It is aimed at art and framing professionals and provides a forum for debate about industry standards, vocational skills and qualifications as well as promoting and developing the picture industry.

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