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The decision came only days after they announced they would move the October 19-25 show from the Seventh Regiment Armory – commandeered by the military after the terrorist attacks – to the 10th floor of Sotheby’s on York Avenue. The Haughtons are currently looking to move both the time and the location of the show in an effort to give New York its most prestigious art and antiques event.

Although not all dealers objected, there was strong feeling in some quarters that the leading auctioneers’ rooms were not the place to be holding a major fair.

“For a variety of reasons I would not have done the show at Sotheby’s. There is a conflict there,” said Anthony Blumka of the New York works of art specialists. “Who’d want to be associated with them right now,” was the opinion of another leading New York dealer.

And the Haughtons themselves said they were mindful that exhibitor reaction to the new venue had not been encouraging. But a letter faxed to all of the 72 exhibitors on Tuesday, September 25 explained that logistics had as important a part to play in the decision to cancel. It said that a detailed feasibility study of the Sotheby’s site had concluded: “Crucial logistical obstacles that would have enabled us to build the fair there cannot be overcome.” To incorporate the fair in its new location, it would have been necessary to reduce stand sizes – a move the organisers said would have changed the original conception of the fair.

French dealers had seriously discussed a boycott of the fair if it was to be held at Sotheby’s, but the vast majority of the exhibitors were prepared to accept these as exceptional circumstances in troubled times and were full of praise for Brian and Anna Haughton for attempting to keep the show alive at such short notice.

“There was a volley of e-mails going back and forth between dealers,” explained Patrick Bavafi, director of Dillingham & Co, San Francisco-based dealers in English furniture. “When there are 72 dealers there are 72 different opinions but there was no great contingent of people wanting to quit because it was at Sotheby’s. The real problems were logistical. There is only one freight elevator in the building to transport material 10 floors up.”

New York specialist Shrubsole Inc concurred: “We need a venue the size of the Armory,” they said. “There are too many problems with Sotheby’s. It’s too small, it’s on the 10th rather than the ground floor, it’s not very accessible.”
Peter Finer, the Warwickshire arms and armour specialist spoke for the many British dealers that will be affected by the cancellation.
“Certainly the British dealers were all prepared to go with no great expectations business-wise, if only to demonstrate that things must go on as usual. We were grateful to Sotheby’s for their offer of space, it’s just most unfortunate that it was not possible to go ahead this time,” he said.