RK doesn’t know Roman Zaleski, and the short time we sat across from him at a lunch in N.Y. City Moshe Tabibnia invited us to many moons ago surely doesn’t give us any bragging rights to say we do.
But we are sure anyone who is seriously involved in the antique carpet world knows his name.
In the latest issue of that rag hali there are several pages devoted to introducing Mr Zaleski to readers.
We are not surprised that rag hali has published this, and in fact it is long overdue this magazine mention in more than just passing Zaleski’s oriental carpet fascination and financial commitment as a collector.
Of course in typical form that rag hali’s modus operandi in approaching how to “introduce” Zaleski strikes RK as confused, patronizing, guarded and far from really complimentary.
In fact we wonder why someone like Zaleski got treated in this manner. Perhaps it’s payback from hali’s new owner michael franses because he is peeved not to be Zaleski’s go-to-guy for rugs?
Zaleski is a rich guy, a man who is frequently listed among the world’s most wealthy individuals.
Although that said Mr Zaleski is far from the top ten or even the top 25.
But let’s face it, even to be last in that list, which Zaleski isn’t as far as any RK has ever seen, is still quite a major achievement.
RK has known about Roman Zaleski’s passion to purchase rugs since the late 1990’s when he was still the ‘exclusive’ client of David Halevim, who was at the time the highest profile dealer in Italy.
Halevim had a swank gallery in the center of Milan and, like many Icarus syndrome suffering art dealers, burned himself out by getting too close to the sun.
The Halevim story is an interesting one and there is no shortage of gossip and rumor why and how Halavim crashed back to earth from his former elevated status.
Nor does it bear attention here, except for the fact Mr Zaleski was left without a “dealer” to do the heavy lifting for him.
The sucking sound of the large vacuum this left on the Italian rug scene did not go unheard or unnoticed by a myriad of dealers both in Italy and throughout Europe.
After all Roman Zaleski was a whale in a sea of hardly any others of equal proportion, and countless oriental rug dealers readied sharpened harpoon and set their strategies to land the big one.
Rumors also surround how one would be Captain Ahab succeeded and got to tie the big one to his boat and float into harbor with the prize.
The business of selling art is, except at the highest rung of the ladder, no different from selling shoes or automobiles.
However, at the top where dealers spend huge amounts on flashy showrooms, multi-page advertisements in magazines, and opening parties where there is no shortage of tuxedo clad servicers with silver platters of gourmet appetizers and large format bottles of French Champagne it definitely is different.
See, these businesses are not into the day to day selling of objects – they are too preoccupied looking to land a whale and make their fortune providing all types of “services” to that individual.
If you think this is a fantasy of RK’s let us inform you of that error. We need not prove this, as anyone who is on the inside of any top of the top art dealers business will verify this is the case.
So Captain Ahab, aka Moshe Tabibnia, has built his business servicing his whale, aka Roman Zaleski.
Remove the Zaleski factor and Moshe’s business would deflate faster than a carnival balloon down range at a shooting gallery.
One question we are sure those who know the story of Captain Tabibnia and his Moby Zaleski is: Was Tabibnia smarter than the other would be Ahab’s or was he just plain luckier?
Regardless, Moshe did the deed and has reaped the fruits of that success.
RK relates the above not to do anything but put some factual background to the article. Background those schemers, led by head schemer michael franses, at that rag hali fail to relate or even intimate.
Do they have any bearing on the portrait of Roman Zaleski? We will let the reader decide.
So let’s now dig into the meat and potatoes the chef’s at that rag hali have cooked up at the Zaleski table.
“Let us begin by talking about the man” that rag hali’s first sentence declares.
“Over the years, we have been fortunate enough to glean a few words from him, whether about a particular rug or his opinions on the state of the textile scene.”
While RK can’t claim a photographic memory of every word published in that rag hali, nor that we have read carefully every article in every issue, we do not ever recall reading any of those gleaned words or Mr Zaleski’s opinions about anything to do with the “textile scene”.
Plus being a top flight financier and global business man what could such a person, no matter his “passion” for or his wallet bending purchases of oriental rugs, really know about the “textile scene”?
“…this elegantly assured and slim gentleman, upright and confident in posture and with a bright blue-eyed gaze is discreet but not tight-lipped; indeed he is almost always smiling.”
Please now, this reeks of both patronization and fawning obsequiousness calling into questioning who ever wrote this article’s motivations. Were we Zaleski we’d definitely raise an eyebrow.
Same goes for this dribble “His accent and slightly husky voice, his speech always measured as he searches for the exact words, tell of his French birth but also of now strong Italian roots.”
They do, really? Please now race fans are you impressed? Do you really think those of “French birth” can be identified by their “search for exact words”. How about those with “strong Italian roots”?
This too is equally as dubious, and we’d be surprised if Zaleski really said it like that rag hali reports.
“Zaleski attributes his skill in buying extraordinary objects to innate financial ability…”
We have never heard the term “innate financial ability” though we do know for a man like Zaleski to buy “extraordinary objects”, aka expensive ones, financial ability is the number one attribute needed and no one is born with an innate wallet.
And here’s where the confusion we mention shines though like a klieg light on a foggy night “…but his engineering background and his passion for the game of bridge must have played just as great a part in forming the qualities he prides himself in: precision, strict method and calculated risk. For this reason, he tells me, he has only dabbled in contemporary art collecting.”
Again, race fans, does this make sense? Is buying a rug any different than buying a piece of contemporary art? Both have no real “market value”, depending more on the whims of often finicky buyers than merit; and even more so are often kited up to heights by what in the financial game is now called timely bubble-nomics.
Perhaps Mr Zaleski has not done more than dabbling in contemporary art because he has not found a dealer he could put enormous faith in like he did Halevim and now Tabibnia?
But asking such questions, let alone answering them, is eons away from anything we will ever read in a piece appearing in that rag hali.
This next statement is equally as quizzical and as confused as one we have ever read about a rug collection.
According to that rag hali Roman Zaleski has “A collection of around 1,500 pieces, hovering in that twilight zone between artisan handicraft and art.”
Any twilight zone we have ever heard about is nowhere we’d want our collection to be or described as being, and while the words artisan handicraft mightn’t sound like airport art to some people, they sure do to RK.
Once again, were we Roman Zaleski we’d be raising another eyebrow or two after reading those words.
But after reading the following were we Roman Zaleski we’d have immediately picked up a phone and called those twits at that rag hali and asked “Are you trying to insult me?
“In a tactful acknowledgement of the difference between the two men, he (Zaleski) explained with a smile how Leveau had a natural inclination for art. When recently, Leveau and Zaleski looked at tapestries together, Leveau complained about Zaleski’s insufficient expertise.”
To put the above into perspective the article mentions one of Zaleski’s “…most important contacts…from the point of view of art took place in the 1980’s through his close relationship with Michel Leveau, founder of the Musee Dapper in Paris dedicated to African art. Leveau, who passed away recently, was a friend at first and then an enemy – so say the stories.”
Why would that rag hali wash Zaleski’s dirty laundry in public for him?
Even RK, who is far more than just conversant with hali speak, can’t fathom this one.
Same with crediting “The example of the Dapper museum in Paris probably infused Zaleski with the idea of building up a museum collection.”
Yesshh, does that rag hali really believe a man of Zaleski’s achievements really needs someone else to give him the idea to make a museum? Especially someone who became an “enemy”.
If Zaleski hasn’t all but written off doing any more “portraits” in that rag hali by now, we wonder how good his English is.
Perhaps the most interesting and informative piece of information contained in this article is the statement the museum in Milan that Moshe Tabibnia has dubbed MATAM and has been braying about for the past five years or so has “…now been given up…”.
Guess it’s back to the drawing board for Moshe, as Zaleski’s efforts have been channeled into the Venice project, “…at the CINI foundation in Isola San Giorio.”
This museum will be the Roman Zaleski collection “…focused on collecting Oriental rugs, without specific geographic or period limitations. And just not masterpieces, but also pieces that would compliment – in style, technique, iconography, materials and ethnographic relevance – a vast collection (around 1,500 pieces), which occupies the territory between artisan handicraft and art….to create and elevate the material day-to-day objects to a higher form.”
RK trusts these are not Roman Zaleski’s words or thoughts; and he, unlike those at that rag hali, does not believe those day-to-day objects need him to elevate them to any higher form.
For if Zaleski, or his dealer handlers, have chosen wisely those “material day-to-day objects” were created by weavers who were able on their own with no help, especially that of any 21st century oriental rug collector, to imbue their weaving with the highest form possible.
RK is revolted by those who believe such patronized commentary for supposed “day-to-day”, ie village and clan, weavings versus those called classical has any place in oriental rug appreciation and studies.
Add to all that this incredibly stupid and immensely questionable statement about Zaleski’s rug collecting: “The personal touch is added with a predilection for color and the expressive techniques used in hand-knotted rugs, this has limited the presence of kilims and other flatweaves to relatively few exhibits.”
Who are those morons at that rag hali trying to kid?
Saying a knotted rug has more “expressive technique” than a kelim or other flatweave is beyond comprehension.
And what are those “expressive techniques”? We don’t ever recall hearing that term.
This is oblique, dumber than dumb hali-speak to the max.
And who could possibly believe pile rugs are more efficacious at projecting color than a kelim or flatweave?
If Roman Zaleski really believes this RK would be glad to spend some time showing him kelims and other flatweaves weaves that are as successful at color projection, or perhaps more so, than any pile rug he owns.
Come to think of it, the fact that rag hali would even suggest such a brainless idea singlehandedly proves what prejudiced ignoramuses they are.
We will not bother commenting on the puff and huff that rag hali forwards about the Zaleski-Tabibnia relationship or the chatter about Zaleski’s Venice museum project.
The rest of the article centers on introducing readers with a few of the “several hundred Caucasian” rugs Zaleski has bought over the years.
Like most rug collectors, this is where he started and then like most serious rug collectors, RK presumes, moved on to real historic rug collecting – Anatolian and Turkmen rugs.
Or perhaps Zaleski, like many who find those rugs too difficult to understand, progressed into far easier to understand classical Persian and Ottoman court rugs.
But of course that rag hali would never publish such words, and nothing like them appears in the article or will ever.
Similar to now departed dear Heinrich Kirrchheim Roman Zaleski is a man with both a large wallet and a large desire to own rugs.
Unlike him, Zaleski is a quiet sorta guy, who until now has stayed far from the limelight.
Will he soon do a Kirrchheim and start showing up everywhere to be the center of attention and admiration by those less endowed, or will he remain in the shadow behind his rug handler Captain Ahab?
RK surely doesn’t know and only time will tell; tho we do hope he will stay on the sidelines and even more so shake off Captain Ahab and move through the cool waters of oriental rug collecting on his own steam.
One last comment: Nowhere in the article does it say who the author is, and RK can only surmise michael franses is behind it, and that is why Roman Zaleski’s portrait appears to RK one Mr Zaleski might better relegate to a dark closet rather than a place of honor over his livingroom fireplace.