Sadly we will be leaving the EU in one form or another and for all that Brexit means Brexit, no one in the government has mentioned that they have even given a second thought to how it will affect the arts. The government's own figures show that the arts or what they call the Creative Industriesgenerate £8 million an hour. Let that sink in - per hour! The total is over £71 billion per year and keeps 1.68 million people in jobs (5.6 % of all UK jobs) many of whom are EU nationals. We are one of the success stories in terms of exports - and no one I know plays golf .
Sober up Brexiteers and tell us what you have in plan for the arts. Show us some understanding of what is at stake. I will give you a recent example that has affected a MOCA London exhibition. Nature Morte: contemporary artists reinvigorate the Still-Life tradition is the name of a show I have curated (based on my book) and it is currently touring European museums, but not without EU difficulties. The show was generated in London (and it will be the last stop of the tour next year at the Guildhall) and was sent to Hå gamle prestegard in Norway. Sadly for all concerned, the shipping importers mishandled the paperwork so that when all the art works were sent on truck to Sweden for the next show, the shipment was stopped at the land border between an EU state (Sweden) and one that simply has to pay a huge tithe to it (Norway).
EU officials refused to allow the paperwork to be corrected and even though the EU claims to want to minimize its carbon foot print, they forced the shipment not only back to Stavanger but then to the UK (an EU state for a few more months) and then it was shipped to Gothenburg. This was an insane waste of time, effort and petrol - but the EU does not care, and will certainly not care about UK artists in the future when we are outside the EU. I do understand this also highlights the great need for the EU to be fixed, as it really is broken, but we can only ever hope to do that from inside the club. The EU will certainly club not only the arts, but UK tourists and other businesses, especially with the negotiations being handled by tweedledee and tweedledum. The exhibition will soon travel to Poland and at least for now the shipping will be easy, but what of future export tours?
The current EU non-EU relationship regarding the temporary importation of art works functions thus: the body importing the show (the museum) must pay up front a 20% deposit on the value of the total of the art works in case they are sold. Even if the exhibition is a museum show where nothing is for sale. Museums will have to cough up a huge amount which will sit in some EU bank account until the export papers show the works have left the EU. Needless to say very few museums will have such stashes of readies available to do this - should they have it in their hearts to do so. Brexit is going to make EU arts export incredibly difficult. If artists (of any type) will need temporary working visas imagine the hassle for the Philharmonia Orchestra getting to tour main land EU, or the Royal Opera or the Scottish Ballet?