Published: November 12, 2019
By W.A. Demers
NEW YORK CITY — Christie’s is one of the US auction houses filing for exemption against the Trump administration tariffs that were levied on Chinese art and antiques. Christie’s led the charge by filing for the exclusion on November 1, the first day in a three-month period in which applications are being accepted by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). Christie’s is requesting to be excused from a 15 percent duty levied on artwork and antiques that come from China, including drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture, that were enacted in August 2019. The firm has applied for exclusions to seven categories of US-China tariffs: paintings, drawings and pastels executed entirely by hand, whether or not framed; collages and similar decorative plaques, executed by hand, whether or not framed; original engravings, prints and lithographs, whether or not framed; original sculptures and statuary, in any material; antiques of any age exceeding 100 years (silverware); antiques of any age exceeding 100 years (furniture); and antiques of any age exceeding 100 years (other).
In its filing, Christie’s claimed that rather than harming China, the tax will result in a “significant loss” for the company’s US business and even potentially push more collectors to buy Chinese art in China, where they won’t have to pay additional fees.
“It also will severely impact the US art market as a whole, drying up any ability to purchase Chinese artworks outside of the United States,” said Christie’s in its filing. “Punishing the US art market in this manner flies in the face of an important American value of support for the art world.”
A spokesperson for Phillips said, “We are closely monitoring the developments surrounding the Chinese import tariffs and are considering their effect on Phillips’ global sales.”
A Sotheby’s spokesperson confirmed that the firm will be filing an exclusion request in the near future.
Christie’s request, and the others’ if and when filed, will be reviewed by the USTR to determine if the tariff would result in “severe economic harm” to the company or American interests.
Since the Trump administration mounted its testy and tense trade war with China, art dealers from around the United States decried the tariff — a 15 percent tax on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, including art and antiques that went into effect on September 1.
From now until January 31, companies are invited to apply for exemption status with the USTR.
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