Proscribed vs Prescribed
Before we start to discuss the issue at hand, archetype Anatolian kelim, RK wants to formally issue the rules of engagement we have followed since started to write here on RugKazbah.com.
It is now more than five years and perhaps had we done this at the get-go it might have made things different, but quite frankly we doubt it.
That said, doing it now can’t hurt and, in fact, it might help.
After our more than 40 years of collecting and researching historic pile rugs, kelim and some related weavings we have along the way met, befriended and, yes, fallen out with many who were, and are now, involved in this field.
RK has never been a carpet-dealer; we have surely sold rugs but selling them never was, or is now, our intent – collecting and researching them was, and still is.
Along this way we have met absolutely no one who is like us, in the sense that they collect archetype rugs for no other reason than to enjoy them, and to research their origin and meaning.
We rarely bought rugs at rug auctions, sure we have participated in some but by and large 90+ percent of our collection, as well as the rugs we no longer own, were purchased at general antique auctions, antique shows, flea-markets and from rug dealers and collectors.
One hundred percent of the rugs we bought were bought solely for their merits, we never bought a rug because it was a “good buy”.
This is a very important point, and one that separates us from anyone else we have met along the rug trail.
The rugs we no longer own, and there are many, were originally part of our collection – as we said we have never been a rug dealer, never had an ‘inventory’ or stock – we only had our collection.
Unfortunately, RK is not as rich, nor were we ever, as the gossip about us seems to believe; we didn’t have a rich daddy, uncle or anyone who ever gave us anything – what we had, have and will ever have, came from our abilities to recognize opportunities and capitalize on them.
We are not going to recount our history here but felt it imperative, at this stage of the game, to spell out in black and white these facts.
In doing so we trust it will put into perspective all the bullshit, innuendo, rumor and gossip that circulates about us.
Our collection is now, and always was, small, choice and extremely carefully selected.
We believe in owning only what we like to call archetypes, and they are very few and very far between.
We have, at various times, because of various needs, sold rugs we would have never sold had we not had those needs.
The disastrous 1990 sale of part of our Turkmen bag collection was one of those instances. By the way the reasons for that disaster were due to the underhanded and totally dishonest actions of william ruprecht, mary jo otsea and several European dealers. Someday soon, and in another venue, RK will expose the behind the scene facts of what happened but for now we have bigger fish to fry.
So, nota bene, the rugs we sold along the way were not sold so we could ‘upgrade’ our collection, or because we were tired of them for one reason or another.
We sold them because we wanted/needed the money.
We trust this is now clear to everyone in rugDUMB; we are tired of being vilified, castigated, denigrated or cast in unflattering lights that are untrue and unwarranted.
Our research, scholarship, publications and collection were, and are, done for far higher purposes than anyone of you all could possibly imagine.
And while we are not looking for praise or sympathy, neither are we looking to be anyone’s whipping post.
OK, enough said, let’s turn attention to the issue at hand – explaining the perceptions, ideas, opinions and facts about Anatolian kelim, which we have gleaned after many long years of intensive research and thinking.
One additional caveat, though, needs to be aired before we begin.
Unlike antique rugs and weaving from elsewhere, other than Turkmenistan, the Anatolian kelim existed in a very protected and isolated environment.
Perhaps, that is why RK’s collection is predominantly focused in these two genres.
Kelim, and the Turkmen rug, did not get appreciated outside their indigenous cultural environments until those environments were destroyed.
This is a highly salient fact, one we know no other author has ever directly and so succinctly mentioned, so let RK be the first.
The weavers and small-scale societies in Anatolia and Turkmenistan, who produced these articles, did so for their own purposes and, as we just said, it was not until their traditional cultures were destroyed by conquest and commerce, the two main forces of that destruction, were their weavings to gain foreign audience.
This reality has been also overlooked and ignored by historians, carpet dealers and collectors.
Likewise, it has directly contributed and complicated understanding the mechanics of differentiating genuine cultural production from what RK refers to as airport-art.
It should be clear to everyone beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a masterpiece of art is not.
Recognizing and appreciating great art is based on connoisseurship, knowledge and expertise.
This is the difference between, as is often said in rugDUMB, having a good ‘eye’ and what RK considers being an expert is all about.
RK wishes not to belabor this point but we have to mention – people are born with eyes, some of them good and others not so.
But no one is born a connoisseur or an expert – this takes time and hard work.
Learning about any type of antique rugs is difficult but learning about historic kelim and Turkmen rugs is especially difficult.
However, once one realizes certain immutable rules that job becomes a lot easier.
RK intends to explain the underlying premise to learning about these two genres, and in doing so hopes to clear up a number of messy points rugDUMB is mired in.
It basically comes down to two words – proscribed and prescribed.
Here’s a short definition of each:
Proscribed: forbidden, outlawed, prohibited
Prescribed: to order, to lay down a directive, to define
We are sure we lost many of you paragraphs ago and probably the rest of you now.
But understanding the subtle but significant nuance of difference between proscribed and prescribed explains that underlying premise to understanding the Anatolian kelim and the Turkmen rug.
Naturally we are speaking of Anatolian kelim and Turkmen rugs made before the societies that produced them were destroyed; i.e. the earliest examples.
We should also mention another even more subtle and hidden factor: One cannot possibly hope to find, purchase and collect great archetype Anatolian kelim today.
Why? Simply because they do not exist -- anywhere other than, to the best of our knowledge, in three already locked-up collections.
RK mentioned why, prior to 1979, we had not purchased or been interested in Anatolian kelim.
This explanation was not hyperbole; it was, and still is, fact.
If you don’t believe us, fine, that’s your preogative but we can undoubtedly state you will be, and can easily be, proven wrong.
We are jumping the gun here and we have done so to emphasize this central fact.
Life is often unexplainable until it is past; from hindsight everything is 20/20.
During a very short period of time, the very small number of extant archetype kelim came out and onto the market.
The mechanics of this occurrence would take a short book to properly explain, this is not the time or place for RK to breach this. But it is the time and place to mention it, that’s why we have.
Even though Anatolian kelim and Turkmen pile rug weaving share that common bond – being unknown only until after their cultural milieu was destroyed – they are quite different in another very notable regard: archetype Turkmen weavings have been coming onto the market for the past 100 years, and they still are.
It is for this reason RK will not today, tomorrow or anytime in the foreseeable future explain in depth what we know about them.
Were this the case with Anatolian kelim, obviously, we would not be writing about them now.
But it isn’t, and we are not going to explain the reasons we have chosen to do this now.
Suffice it to say there a number, least of which is the ongoing online discussion of Anatolian kelim we mentioned yesterday.
End of Part I