Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Auction Hype at Christies, etc Part 1
email: jc@rugkazbah.com
Sat, Jun 20th, 2009 06:19:32 AM
Topic: Auction Hype at Christies, etc Part 1

As much as RK does not want to spend time commenting on the ebb and flow of stupidity in rugDUMB we just can’t sit by silently and watch.

While it is absolutely clear hali magazine’s staff writers and various magpie internet commentators believe they are dispensing words of wisdom and advice when they peck away on their keyboards such an idea is as unbelievable as credence the trillions of dollars of economic bailout will do anything to stem the tide of America’s financial destruction.

It’s easy to criticize and while some may think this is RK’s game they are missing the boat, as the modus operandi on RugKazbah.com always offers what we believe is constructive rebuttal to the voluminous bunk and bullshit rugDUMB is drowning in, and has been drowning in, for many years.

Let’s look at a few recent “issues” that have rankled RK enough to get us to write this post.

1. The cover picture and comments on hali issue 158:

Here is the Turkish rug from the Joseph McMullan collection that graces the cover of that issue.

Plate 108, ISLAMIC CARPETS, Joseph McMullan

Here is part of the blurb the rug-challenged editors of hali published about this weaving with our comments in bold type:

“Relatively few Turkish village rugs are known with a large scale medallion comparable to that seen on this striking, richly coloured piece, described by Joseph McMullan as “extraordinarily powerful”(Islamic Carpets, 1965, pl. 108, p.320).”

To say the above description is ignorant hyperbole is being kind -- there are a number of superior Turkish village rugs that negate this specious blanket statement hali amazingly presents as fact.

Are these clowns at hali so brainwashed from imbibing their kool-aid to think they can get away with making such ridiculous pronouncements? Do they think everyone in rugDUMB is as punch-drunk to swallow up such clap-trap?

Yesshhh, all one has to do to discount and prove them wrong is to turn the page in McMullan to see the following Turkish rug:

Plate 109, ISLAMIC CARPETS, Joseph McMullan

There is little doubt 109 is far superior in all respects to 108, but apparently the dull bulbs at hali can’t tell the difference between a masterpiece and a good but not exceptional Turkish rug.

By the way, 108 is not really a “village” rug. It is, in RK’s opinion, nothing but a town “workshop” product with little brilliance or invention visible.

However, 109 exudes the characteristic brilliance and invention which is what masterpiece Turkish village rugs are all about.

Rugdom is sorely deficient in recognizing the difference between genre period reproductions and the real thing.

Go study these two rugs and if you are honest, experienced and aware RK is sure you will have to agree.

2. The recent auction fever, hype and stupidity concerning several Turkish “village” rugs

RK has written volumes about the late genre period reproduction “bellini” rug-moron, poseur and thief dennis dodds pawned off on the Los Angeles County Art Museum in 2004.

By ignoring and allowing this rip-off, which by the way was the most egregious public example dodds and others have perpetrated, rugDUMB opened the door wide and invited continued misinformation and categorization of all Turkish “village” rugs, as the following examples at auction now illustrate.

3. The supposed “ 17th century NORTHEAST ANATOLIAN CARPET” sold June 9th at Christies, NY.

Lot 19, Christie, NY

Here is the description Christie published with our comments in bold type

“It is difficult to ascribe an exact date or provenance to this carpet as no similar piece has been found or published."

Uniqueness is a double-edged sword, surely no absolute factor to understand any rug or textile. Clearly this rug’s uniqueness posed a humongous problem for the cataloguer at Christies. Granted the rug is “unique” but so what says RK as it is ungainly, derivitive, formulaic and ugly. It is nothing but a pastiche of motifs lifted from a variety of rugs made in Turkey and Armenia.

“Most likely, it was woven in the golden triangle area of East Anatolia/Northwest Persia in a Kurdish district for a local noble.”

Speaking of hyperbole the statement such a rug was made for a “local noble” is ludicrous and ridiculous. Was that local noble’s cloth name-tag sewn on the back or did the cataloguer consult his/her oujii board? It’s high time for rugDUMB to cease and desist from this type of nonsense, even in auction catalog hyped descriptions.

"The general format and intense colors are akin to 17th century Northwest Persian carpets."

Being akin does not in any way shape or form equate to being, and in no way is this rug 17th century. Period, end of discussion—the rug is a later genre pastiche and anyone who thinks it is anything but is sorely misinformed and wrong.

“The border layout of panels enclosing quatrefoils is highly unusual, and a very similar quatrefoil device embracing a lotus flower can be found in a Northwest Persian medallion carpet in the Keir collection (please see Sphuler, F., Islamic Carpets and Textiles in the Keir Collection, London, 1978, p. 98, pl. 45). However, the rosettes in the field, the minor outer guard stripe, filler motifs in the border and most importantly, the structure, relate to East Anatolian examples. The sampler nature of the design, especially in the border, further enhances this very unique, compelling and enigmatic weaving.”

Well it is clear some thought this rug compelling, as the $206,000.oo price it made is compelling enough. However in RK’s opinion compelling it ain’t, not by a long shot, and the $206,000 price is nothing but another example of someone paying too much for much, much too little a rug.

Frankly, that price was nothing but a perfect crime rip-off, as the rug is circa 1800, a pastiche and nothing but another workshop invention masquarading as the real mccoy.

Go study this close-up where the rote and uninventive use of later 18th and early 19th century ornamentation is clearly visible :

This rug is circa 1800 and the catalog’s ambitious 17th century dating is poppycock nonsense.

RK has no doubt the rug probably had “good” color but is that and the dream idea it is 17th century enough to get someone to empty their wallet to own it? Clearly it was but in RK estimation this rug, like the dodds/LACMA “bellini” and others we can cite, is so far over-priced it is a joke.

Our condolences to the buyer.

4. The Turkish rugs in the sotheby NY 10th of June sale

RK has in the past and more recently discussed the issue of real Turkish village rugs versus workshop production and the sotheby NY sale attempts to pass-off a few more pathetic examples as the real thing continues below.

The first is this fragment.

lot 18, Sotheby New York 10 June

Called 18th century in the catalog, we’d have preferred early 19th century, this rug’s archetype, the McMullan example, was mentioned in the description.

Here is McMullan’s

Plate 80, ISLAMIC CARPETS, Joseph McMullan

However, the cataloguer again displays amazing ignorance by not citing their glaring differences but trying to gloss over them over by reciting some “similarities”. Naturally any true comparison of these rugs would not be favorable to lot 18 and regardless of sotheby’s attempt to hype their piece no one bit and it sold for a measly $6250.

Another over hyped Sotheby rug was this one, lot 20, they euphamistically called an “Armenian prayer rug fragment circa 1700”.

lot 20 sotheby New York, 10 June

RK is positive this rug is at best mid-18th century. We would also opine, but without such assurance, this rug was made in central Turkey and not farther east in Armenia or south Caucasus as sotheby’s description states, regardless of the “copied” Armenian inscription two "comparable" examples they cited bear.

But although it’s provenance is a matter of opinion it’s value surely isn’t and the ridiculous 10,000-15,000 dollar estimate tanked and it went unsold.

There were a number of other mediocre supposed Turkish “village” rugs in the sale and they too did not sell. Rumor has it several of them, as well as lot 20, belong to rUnny newmann, as we have heard from collectors who were previously offered them by rUnny.

One last comment concerns lot 15 at sotheby, which was a way over-rated, over-dated, Tekke engsi.

lot 15, sotheby New York, 10 June

The only description offered for this lot in the catalog is “circa 1840”.

Silence is often golden, so was the cataloguer’s lack of wordage here prompted by his/her ignorance of the complexities of Turkmen rugs?

Well if so perhaps he/she should have been equally motivated in other descriptions as brevity there would also have been equally as warranted.

By the way, the engsi sold for $7,500 which was, in our opinion, again far to much.

The Sotheby engsi was a very mediocre example which lacked the subtle but telling nuances historic Turkmen rugs display.

Finding and buying early collector rugs -- be they Turkish village or Turkmen -- is extremely difficult. What apparently is not is the bamboozling of seriously unprepared and poorly educated buyers who, besotted with auction hype and fever, falsely believe they are getting the real thing.

Often, actually almost always, many of the most expensive collector pieces at auction, like those this spring which we have noted, easily fall into that category.

Again our condolences to their victims…

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