How Will the French Election Impact the Art Market?

As not just France, but the entire Europe, anticipates the results of the French presidential elections, it is clear that a lot more is at stake than we expected. After BREXIT and the constant stories pumping fuel for potential breakup of the European Union, it is not just the French political landscape that is about to change. Depending on the winner, and if the predictions and the candidates’ promises are to become true, France’s role in the international art marketplace may be shifting.

For now, the French art market is still doing surprisingly well, considering the fact the deadly terrorist attack in Paris, in 2015, left a grim aftertaste which still lingers. The attendance and overall sales at the leading art fairs like Fiac, PAD, the Biennale des Antiquaires and Paris Photo have diminished, but the auction houses are reporting a strong turnover despite the circumstances. Cultural heritages stored in France’s stately homes and castles are largely exported, and this has been one of the biggest factors for the high position of France in the international art market. However, all of that may change very soon.

The former far-right National Front leader, and presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen has made her policy clear from the start. Quitting the EU might seriously jeopardize, or even completely end, the free circulation of goods. This would directly affect all sales going in and out of the country. On top of that, Le Pen aims to implement a concept of “intelligent protectionism” which would put a 3% tax on imports. Her decision to leave the single currency would also bring some waves in the art market economics. As Marine Le Pen focuses on French patrimony, she wishes to increase funds for heritage and conservation by a hefty 25%. Another act aimed to close off the French borders is reflected in her plan to end the sales of national buildings and palaces to foreign buyers and the private sector. One of the announced features in her campaign includes a host residency programme for artists of all ages and disciplines which would focus on supporting the local contemporary art scene.

The opposing presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, said he has no plans to revoke the active wealth tax exemption for artworks, which essentially encourages wealthy collectors to invest in art. With a carefully designed mix of tax incentives and some deregulation, Macron wishes to simplify the art market’s regulatory framework. The leader of the centrist party declared his plans to create more fertile ground for arts in France. All schoolchildren would have access to cultural and artistic education, and young people would be given a €500 annual “culture pass”. Completely opposite of his rival, Macron plans to launch a EU’s student exchange programme for artists and curators. Another point in his campaign mentions a €200m fund for support of cultural and creative industries in France.

Pretty soon the new president of France will be known, and so will the announced reforms, changes and campaigns related to art and the art market. How this will be implemented and to what extent is it going to affect the French, and the European art market, remains to be seen.

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