“Punishing the U.S. art market in this manner flies in the face of an important American value of support for the art world,” Christie’s wrote in their filings submitted Thursday as they requested relief from the Trump administration’s most recent tariffs on Chinese imports, according to Bloomberg.
Christie’s became one of the first companies to file for such relief, making the case that these tariffs will harm their business and have damaging effects on the U.S. art market. The auction house is seeking relief from the 15 percent tariffs on seven types of artworks and antiques, including paintings and drawings, prints, original sculptures, and antique furniture over 100 years old. The filings add that such impositions will impact the U.S. art market by “drying up any ability to purchase Chinese artworks outside of the United States.”
As of Thursday, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) began accepting exclusion request on Chinese imports subject to the tariffs. The USTR noted that while considering an item for exception it will factor in “whether a product is available from a source outside of China, whether the additional duties would cause severe economic harm to the requestor or other U.S. interests, and whether the particular product is strategically important or related to Chinese industrial programs including [the Chinese economic plan] ‘Made in China 2025.’” The tariffs began as part of the Trump Administration’s attempt to negotiate a trade deal with China.
According to Christie’s, “Rather than hurting China, this tariff will help the art market in China and elsewhere by incentivizing collectors to sell their Chinese artworks outside of the U.S.” In 2018, China was the third-largest market for art, accounting for 19 percent of sales by value, according to economist Clare McAndrew’s Art Market Report. It trailed the U.S., which accounted for 44 percent of all art market activity worldwide, and the U.K., which accounted for 21 percent.
This is not the first frenzy the trade war has stirred up in the art world. Earlier this year, Pace Gallery announced that, after having a space in Beijing for 11 years, it was shuttering the location as the current situation made it “impossible to do business in mainland China.”