By Bev Haigh-Jones

Visitors at the exhibition

We have a story from new member Philippa this month, explaining the problems that she has experienced post Brexit. Philippa is an art curator who shares her time between the UK and France and she organises art exhibitions, both here and in Europe, some including the work of Cornish artists. Her story tells the tale of severely increased logistics problems, significant delays and monstrous increases in costs and she is not even importing on a permanent basis, but just moving artwork for temporary display. Imagine the hardships being faced by other groups in a similar category, such as musicians, who need to transport equipment regularly for concerts, etc., or worse still, I imagine, import/export companies where the transportation is permanent and the associated difficulties severely impact on their businesses.


‘Being with Trees’ curator brings Arborealist Movement to Gibraltar.

The Being with trees exhibition at the Gustavo Bacarisas gallery in Gibraltar saw over 100 works of tree paintings from all over the UK. As one of the founding members of the Arborealist Movement, I was key in curating the event after Brexit had taken effect. This exhibition had been in the pipeline for two years and aimed to showcase UK artists abroad and in particular those from Devon and Cornwall.

While the exhibition had to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic, the main problems were acquiring customs clearance through France, Spain, and Gibraltar. Many people imagine Gibraltar as a “little England”, which is far from the truth. Gibraltar was ceded from the UK in 1948 and has its own language, customs, and culture distinctly different from any other country. Gibraltar Cultural Services had worked with me before, bringing Gibraltarian artists to London; also, pre-Brexit I had launched Arborealist Exhibitions at the Musee Dortoir Des Moines, St Benoit, Poitiers, and Musee de Saint Croix in Loudun, both showcasing over 100 different paintings and prints of trees.

This time I was supported by Jacqueline Wedlake-Hatton as co-curator. As a Cornish artist, she selected celebrated tree painters from Cornwall including Kerry Harding and Michael Porter.

Our two most difficult tasks were shipping the work and collating documents and insurance for the legal transportation of artwork across Europe post-Brexit and raising the sponsorship from companies to pay the enormous costs incurred. One document from the London Chamber of Commerce cost nearly £1,000 for what in effect were seven pieces of paper.

Before Brexit, we simply hired a driver and he drove to France to deliver the art to the museum. He was provided with a contents manifest to show to customs, who checked the contents of the van against the manifest and no charges were necessary as we were part of EEC trading agreement. This time, custom inspections held up the artwork for days at a time and fees were payable at each border. I imagine that a lot of small to medium businesses have had the same problem. Their profit margins have been cut to such a degree that they have stopped trading. Exports to Europe were part of our GNP!

Exhibition view showing the work of Michael Porter celebrated Cornish artist and Kevin Tole from Devon

Dr. Philippa Beale

July-December 2021 Bodmin Keep Travelling Exhibition ‘Concrete Castles’
October 2021 Linacre Barn Exmoor ‘The Arborealists’ 
November 2021 No Vacancy Gallery Melbourne Australia. ‘The Garden of Loss and Triumph’
April 2022 Hostry Space Norwich Cathedral ‘The Arborealists’
June 2022 NDSM FUSE Amsterdam

Featured image: Joe Green on Unsplash