Anyone who has been reading RK.com for the past year or so has become aware of RK.com’s dissatisfaction with dennis dodds.
We are both disgusted with the manner in which dodds conducts his business of selling antique and historic weavings, as well as the way he is allowed to use his high-profile position in rugdom’s pseudo-establishment to further those gains.
RK.com has accused dodds of misrepresentation concerning a number of “pieces” he has presented publicly for sale, the most visible of those being the fiasco surrounding his sale of a late period genre reproduction Turkish Village Rug to the Los Angeles County Art Museum(LACMA).
RK.com has unabashedly accused dodds of being a ‘carpet-bagger’ of major proportions, especially in disingenuously misleading LACMA’s naïve curator into believing the rug he pawned off on them was a masterpiece of its type and a museum worthy, mid-16th century example.
It is none of the above, as we have conclusively proven beyond the shadow of doubt requirement necessary in any a court of law.
It seems dodds is no stranger to glossing around in museums and his most recent coup of staging a show of Anatolian Carpets, in the Art Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, demonstrates this well.
RK learned of dodds's exhibition some months ago and planned to go to there when dodds and Walter Denny were going to give public talks about the show.
Unfortunately, other more important matters prevent our making the trip to Philadelphia, but this morning one of our more active readers informed us there was a review of the exhibition online.
We took a look at the online presentation, which is on clownland.com, and have decided to add our commentary to the questionable descriptions several of the pieces dodds selected for his show carry.
But before we get into that, let’s state for the record our question whether or not this is but another “selling” exhibition for his stock dodds has created in the guise of something that looks on the surface to be “educational”
Lord knows, it wouldn’t be the first time dodds used an institutional venue to help him ply his wares to the unsuspecting, naïve or gullible, now would it?
We should mention in all fairness to dodds there are a number of lenders to the show but we are also 100% sure some of the pieces are presently in dodds’s stock or were sold by him to those lenders.
Though we are not privy to the particulars, we say this from past experience and knowledge of dodds’s modus operandi.
We picked out three pieces from the eight published with the review because they demonstrate the gross and unsupportable liberties dodds seems to feel he is entitled to take concerning provenance and dating.
The simple fact dodds has been positively shown to be an egregious over-dater and someone who pulls provenances out of his hat, or do they come from somewhere else on his anatomy, should be enough to have him carefully monitored by rugdom’s establishment.
But because there is no real establishment to exert any means of self-regulation in this field, a carpet-bagger like dodds is able to get away with his transgressions with nary anyone, other than RK.com, ever calling him out.
Of course, not all of dodds’s transactions are questionable, nor are all his rugs bogus, nor is everything he thinks and says about them specious. However, he has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie-jar more than once and RK.com thinks it’s about time for dodds to face the music instead of dancing his lame jig to its beat.
The descriptions that appear in italics under each of the three weavings we illustrate are those that accompany each piece in the exhibition. By the way, they were all written by dodds.
The first and the one we find to be the most questionable is a supposed circa 1800 “western Anatolian” yastic or pile woven cushion cover.
“Yastic: Pile Cushion Cover, yastik, ca. 1800;
Western Anatolia, Dazgir
“Inspiration of the Ottoman court is evident in the design of this small cushion cover or yastik. Turkish miniature paintings of the 16th - 18th centuries depict cushions with designs ranging from repeat patterns to a single medallion positioned along the back of broad divans.
This village yastik follows closely the spirit, if not the refined rendering, of its earlier brocaded silk and metal model destined for more courtly rooms.
Brocaded yastiks from Ottoman urban centers do not display borders; here, however, the weaver has added a narrow one. This essential element firmly links this wool pile yastik, a knotted product, to the carpet tradition as distinct from other textile predecessors. A similar example is in the McMullan Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In this example, eight radiating elements spring from a star-shaped center, all set on a brilliant red ground with four angular spandrels at the corners.
This single medallion is extracted from 16th-and 17th-century repeating textile patterns woven in Bursa and Istanbul.
In these, the radiating blossoms are clearly drawn as carnations and hyacinths, each attached to a connecting vine, a feature of a related example in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Yellow pendants attached to the top and bottom of the center medallion contain stylized hyacinths.”
Although we do not know this piece and RK.com has only seen this small photo, we’d hazard to say it doesn’t convince us it is 200 years old.
In fact, we might hazard further and say it looks to us like a repro and, while we are not afraid to make such a provisional pronouncement, we would reserve any final conclusions until we could see a far better photo or the piece in person.
Notwithstanding our reticence to make a final declaration as to its genuineness, we do question the reference dodds floats to a similar piece in the McMullan collection.
We have McMullan’s great book in our lap at the moment and there is nothing published therein that even comes close to this piece.
In fact, there is only one Turkish yastic illustrated there and it is clearly not what dodds is referring to. Or is it?
Anyway we’d like dodds to supply the exact reference he cites.
Reading the highfalutin blah-blah dodds’s scribbled about this yastic also doesn’t fill us with confidence the icoc chairman and supposed high profile rug expert really knows what he is talking about.
First off the design of this yastic is so two-dimensional, it begs the possibility it could really be circa 1800 and not a recent copy.
Second, dodds’s statement:
the medallion was “…extracted from 16th-and 17th-century repeating textile patterns woven in Bursa and Istanbul.”
might be somewhat true but why go to Bursa brocades when there are a number of pile woven carpets with this “type” of medallion treatment?
Obviously a comparison with a pile rug would be more germane and effective, since the yastic is pile woven.
But dodds, like many rug snobs and poseurs, prefers to relate importance to high culture royal atelier and independent factory production goods (i.e. Ottoman and Safavid) rather than to low culture, village and klan produced articles.
There is nothing we like about this yastic and would not be surprised if the private collection it belongs to, or formerly belonged to, was dodds’s.
It has that flat, boring pseudo-look the LACMA and many other of dodds’s ‘treasures’ display.
Lastly, the border with those half-moons or “C’s” strikes us as the most improbable design feature among some others that are somewhat less so.
Frankly, we can’t believe it is really old.
The second description we question is that of the following rug:
Pile Prayer Rug,
18th Century; Central Anatolia
Collection of Dr.and Mrs. Charles Beard
“Certain structural and design characteristics found in this unusual rug are consistent with a particular type of weaving from central Anatolia.
There are 5-6 wefts between each row of symmetric knots.
The spotted pattern is found in several early rugs, including the two well-known “animal pelt” carpets in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum in Istanbul. It has been suggested that these spots are stylized and reduced versions of the popular chintamani motif that is usually depicted with three spots.
A carpet in the Mevlana Museum in Konya, which also displays single spots, shows connected diagonal leaves in the guard borders.
This design appears to have influenced—albeit in abstracted form—the upper and lower borders of this enigmatic prayer rug, whose spotted pattern these examples may have inspired.
A large eight-pointed star inside a solitary octagon marks the head of the prayer niche.
Other examples showing outlines of two feet at the bottom of the central panel appear in a 17th-century silk embroidered textile in the Topkapi Saray Museum and in two white ground prayer rugs in the TIEM in Istanbul.”
Firstly, this rug is not 18th century and if anyone can demonstrate, thru any means other than speculative C14 rug dating, it is RK will gladly start eating it without katsup.
Phuleeze now, who could possibly represent this horribly apparent, later 19th century, pile weaving as 200 plus years old?
Well, if dodds didn’t sell it to the present owner and need to protect his sales patter then calling him a rug-little for believing such a ridiculous dating must be a given.
Again, here in this description we have dodds spouting off his misplaced and somewhat misleading high culture references –Topkapi rugs, etc -- in discussing a weaving that clearly has nothing in common with them, other than an aspect of its design.
This practice is not only obnoxious, in RK’s opinion, but it borders on ridiculous.
It’s high time rugdom commented on this penchant of dodds (as well as others like little lord franses) to reference ‘important’ weavings with direct or indirect ties to ‘royalty’ when discussing village and klan produced weavings that have no outward relationship to them.
It is pure prejudice, and a type of discrimination we all need to address and change, for some of these village and klan produced weavings are actually the archetypes and prototypes for those royal weavings.
Clearly this fact is lost on a know-little like dodds, and even on little lord franses whose efforts with low culture weavings are far, far below his performance with those from the supposedly more ‘important’ and august circumstances.
Again this rug, its gross representation of ‘feet’ and its spotted field, which by the way hardly optically effective because of the weavers inability to get the proportions right and exact, interests us not.
Maybe it will draw a few laughs and snickers from the lay public, who will view this show, but it does not equate with the praise and over-the-top description dodds bestowed upon it.
Plus citing a rather common structural characteristic for certain groups of Anatolian and Caucasian weavings as proof of the provenance guesstimate dodds forwards is but another instance of dodds’s dubious rug expertise.
The last weaving we choose to critique is this kelim:
”Kelim: Slit-weave Tapestry, kilim,
ca 1800; Central Anatolia, Konya/Afyon
“The design of this small kilim is composed of concentric diamond medallions, each with serrated edges that elicit attention. This rare design type is known to have come from Afyon, northwest of Konya. Early examples such as this use clear dyes made from the madder root to create three different colors: red, orange, and aubergine purple.
The stable yellow dye is particularly glowing and the indigo blue changes from lighter to deeper tones. This abrash, the slight variations in tone that result when the weaver uses different dye batches, lends additional character to the piece. Details of white cotton—the small central ones are brocaded—add a playful punctuation.
The design of later weavings remains true to this configuration, but the dyes become somber and dull.
Each end panel displays one band of directional chevrons and one of indented medallions. Because the kilim has a well-proportioned square shape, the absence of side borders allows the design to extend perceptually beyond the edge of the textile, which imparts an extra sense of breadth and movement.”
This kelim is a rather boring, late example of a “type” that has few if any really old predecessor.
Dating it circa 1800 is but another example of dodds’s dopey over-dating and again we might question whether or not he ever owned this piece or was involved in selling it?
We’d also like to inquire as to who did the dye testing the description implies? Or is this just dodds playing more of the guessing games we have lately called attention to.
No, folks, as far as RK.com is concerned this exhibition breaks no new ground, nor does anything notable other than keeping dodds’s name out in the public sphere as someone who is has been cracked up to be expert and someone who is affiliated with museums.
RK knows the truth about dodds and our call for running him out of rugdom on a rail couldn’t be better supported by the questions we now raise about his having organizing this exhibition.