LONDON (Reuters) - The value of British art exports has surged to its highest level since the credit crunch, despite new rules giving deceased artists' estates a share of their work's resale price, data compiled by a Thomson Reuters unit showed on Monday.
The value of art and cultural objects exported from Britain rose by 32 percent to 1.97 billion pounds ($3.06 billion) in the year to May 2012, according to a statement from Sweet & Maxwell, a legal information provider owned by Thomson Reuters.
On Jan 1, 2012, the Artist's Resale Rights Directive, which allows artists to claim a percentage of the resale value of their work, was extended to benefit the estates and heirs of artists who have been dead less than 70 years. They became entitled to up to 4 percent of an original piece's resale price. Rights in Britain previously applied only to living artists.
"Many art experts and dealers were concerned that London's position in the art world could suffer compared to New York or Hong Kong which haven't introduced any such levy on the resale of modern and contemporary art," Massimo Sterpi, co-editor of "The Art Collecting Legal Handbook", said in the Sweet & Maxwell statement.
"The early indications are that this hasn't slowed down the London market," he added.
Exports of modern art, the category most likely to be affected by the new rules, jumped by 105 percent from the previous year to 687 million pounds by May 2012, a quicker rise than the rest of the market, Sweet & Maxwell said.
"Art is an increasingly important trophy asset for international High Net Worth individuals and some argue that the concept of art as an investment received a big push from the credit crunch - which saw the value of many other assets slump," Bruno Boesch, another co-editor of "The Art Collecting Legal Handbook", said in the Sweet & Maxwell statement.
London and New York have the most multi-millionaires and billionaires respectively in the world, according to a 2012 survey by WealthInsight, a London-based wealth consultancy.
Artist's Resale Rights were fiercely opposed by the British art market when they were first introduced.
"It's not a level playing field - we would be handing a large part of our art market to our rivals on a plate," Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation, told The Times in 2008.
While Boesch said in the statement that long-term fears about the impact of the rights were probably exaggerated, he added that "it is still early days for the new legislation".
($1 = 0.6429 British pounds)
(Reporting By Amritha John; Editing by Michael Roddy)