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"We recognise the fact that we cannot create markets for sectors in which there is limited demand," Mr Lester told ATG regarding the decision to scrap the 18th outing for the fair, due to take place this February 3-8.

Once considered among the top international art and antiques fairs, AIFAF has struggled to maintain exhibitor numbers in recent years - with some regulars choosing rival events - and its cancellation was announced on the website last week.

The Lesters, who are seasoned Florida fair organisers, will now focus their efforts on the modern and contemporary market with three fairs in Miami and one in Palm Beach, ArtPalmBeach, which took place for the 18th year last week from January 21-25.

'No Young Dealers'

"A majority of the dealers who were the founding members and foundation of AIFAF 20 years ago are unfortunately now deceased or retired from business," said Mr Lester.

"There has been no youth movement of replacement young dealers in this sector. In addition, the massive growth of the Miami art market in December around Art Basel Miami has affected the very high end modern and contemporary market in Palm Beach."

Market Shifts

This shift in the market is, he thinks, reflected in the cancellation of other art and antiques fairs across the US. He cited Haughton Fairs, who have reduced their New York fairs to one, and Palm Beach Show Group's decision to shelve fairs in Dallas and Chicago.

"We believe that the key to success is recognising opportunities where they exist and recognising declining market realities where they exist and adjusting our efforts accordingly," Mr Lester added.

"Our feedback from exhibitors has been nothing but positive and many expressed to us their opinion that our AIFAF decision was a wise one. As the biblical verse says, 'To everything there is a season'."

Founded in 1997 as The Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair, the event rapidly gained status, attracting some of the world's very top dealers. In 2001 Lester sold the fair to Dmg world media for $18m but 2008 saw Lester buy back the fair at a knock-down price.