A Qing vase, one of the 556 Sassoon ivories accepted by the British Museum. Image: British Museum.

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The International Netsuke Society Convention, due to be held in the capital on May 2-6, 2019, has been cancelled because participants are reluctant to exhibit in London under a near-total ivory trade ban.

Japanese art expert and convention organiser Rosemary Bandini said: “It is extremely disappointing that the UK is already losing its place as a centre of excellence in Asian art as a direct result of the government’s proposed ban.

“I am deeply concerned that without an exception for old ivory artefacts, which are clearly valued for their historical and cultural value rather than their ivory content, moving the convention, almost certainly to Paris, is a sign of things to come.”

Bandini added that “London has been pre-eminent in the field of Asian art since the end of the 19th century” and attendees for the annual convention come from all over the world, including Australia, Japan and Mexico.

The ivory ban received further publicity last week as the British Museum revealed it had accepted a huge collection of ivory works of art.

A celebrated collection of ivories from The Sir Victor Sassoon Chinese Ivories Trust will be going on display at the British Museum af ter it acquired the collection earlier this year.

Museum director Dr Hartwig Fischer said he “supports the proposal to ban the modern ivory trade worldwide” but that it is “right for the museum to collect historical specimens”. He added: “We are not gaining anything by destroying these historic objects. They are part of that incredible diversity of human cultures that have evolved over millions of years.”