Art Market

U.S. President Trump’s new tariffs on Chinese art and antiquities go into effect September 1st.

Benjamin Sutton
Aug 15, 2019 3:55PM, via The Art Newspaper

President Donald J. Trump joins Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the start of their bilateral meeting Saturday, June 29, 2019, at the G20 Japan Summit in Osaka, Japan. Photo by Shealah Craighead, via Flickr.

U.S. President Donald Trump delayed a new round of tariffs on goods from China this week, but left in place a new 10 percent tax on Chinese art and antiquities that will go into effect on September 1st.

About half of the goods slated to be subject to new tariffs as part of the Trump administration’s escalating trade war with China will be spared until mid-December, in hopes of boosting holiday spending. But starting next month, any Chinese-made paintings, sculptures, collages, prints, antiques over 100 years old, and other collectible goods will be subject to the new 10 percent tariff, according to a list released Tuesday by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

The new tariff will be levied on all Chinese-made art imported to the U.S. from anywhere in the world, not just from China. So, for example, a New York-based collector who buys an Ai Weiwei sculpture at Frieze in London in October will have to pay the new 10 percent tax when bringing that sculpture back to the U.S.

“[The tariff] will act as a tax on all U.S. collectors, curators, and dealers buying anywhere on the international market,” James Lally, a New York-based dealer specializing in Chinese art, told The Art Newspaper.

Whether or not art would be implicated in the U.S.-China trade war has been a subject of great uncertainty. Last September, art and antiquities were removed from a list of Chinese goods subject to new tariffs. But then in May, that exemption came into question, as Trump threatened to impose a 25 percent tax on Chinese art and antiquities.

This week’s news of a 10 percent tariff, though not as extreme as 25 percent, may deal a major blow to the international trade in Chinese art. In the latest edition of economist Clare McAndrew’s “Art Market Report” published by UBS and Art Basel, she noted that imports from China represent less than 5 percent of all imports of art and antiquities to the U.S., but that the possibility of new tariffs on those imports had caused “fears that this might deter international vendors from bringing works to the U.S. for sale.”

Lally echoed those fears, telling TAN:

I expect that this will cause U.S. residents to be more selective and less active on the international market. [. . .] The U.S. import tariff will also add complications and costs for any dealer [in Chinese art] outside the U.S. interested in participating in a U.S. art fair or auction.
Benjamin Sutton