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Art market on edge after Brexit vote

auction paddles
Erin Lubin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

It's one of the art world's most important weeks of the year - with auction house giants Phillips, Sotheby's and Christie's all preparing for major contemporary sales in London over the next few days.

However, following last week's vote of the UK choosing to leave the European Union, dealers and collectors are holding their breaths to see how the referendum results will affect the art market.

In 2015, Britain held 19 percent of the total value of global auction sales of art and antiques. This was by far the largest share among European countries, with France coming in next at 5 percent, reported the New York Times, citing the TEFAF Art Market Report.

More recently though, 58.2 percent of respondents polled in a Professional Advisors to the International Art Market survey said Brexit would have a negative impact on the market, according to art newswire service Artnet.

However, Sotheby's chief financial officer Michael Goss told CNBC by email on Monday that the auction house was "confident that Sotheby's will continue to thrive in and adapt to whatever environment Brexit brings."

"Looking to the immediate future, we expect little impact on our financial position, given that our business activities in sterling are very well hedged against currency fluctuations. On the positive side, the new exchange rates have the potential to make this week's Contemporary art sales in London more attractive to global art buyers."

Auction house Phillips' communications director Michael Sherman told CNBC, "In the short term, it's business as usual heading into this week's sales. It would be premature to make any specific comments on the long-term impact on the UK art market. But it's important to keep in mind that today's art market is truly a global affair as buyers and sellers come from every part of the globe."

Sterling dropped to a 30-year-low Friday – its lowest level since 1985 – and dropped even further on Monday. However, this could potentially boost international buyers' confidence in the hopes of finding a deal at auction, according to some experts, with many buying for collectors in Asia and the U.S.

"We remain confident in the long term outlook for the art market as evidenced by the growing breadth of the countries represented among bidders in our sales. For now, it is business as usual," said Christie's, in a statement to CNBC.

Artists themselves also responded to the Brexit vote. Famed sculptor Anish Kapoor told U.K. newspaper The Guardian, "We know problems can only be solved together. So to do this is a dreadful act. How will this affect my art? Some anger does get in there. But what I feel today is mostly shame. Art reflects our national consciousness, but now we've just dug a big hole and buried it forever."


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