“ Chakhansur main carpet, southwest Afghanistan, 19th century. Wool pile on a wool foundation, asymmetric knot, open left, 2.97 x 4.57m (9’9” x 15’0”). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Caroline & H. McCoy Jones Collection, 2000.118.7”
RK first met tom, aka thomas, cole many moons ago when he was working for Adraskand Gallery.
This is when Adraskand was located in Point Reyes, a sleeping little town on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, actually on Tomales Bay, about 60 miles north of San Francisco.
This was circa early-mid 1990's. At that time cole knew little about anything rug wise.
Over the decades since cole has projected himself as Mr Belouch, the all-seeing eye of all things Belouch.
He also is not ashamed to make-believe he also knows enough about Turkmen rugs to be considered a pundit.
We will not bother to debate either, and what we have to say surely does not depend on whether or not cole knows anything about Turkmen rugs, or even Belouch ones.
The carpet pictured above, now known as the Chakhansur carpet, is perhaps one of the most famous Baluch rugs thanks mostly to cole's efforts to promote it.
Another reason must also be recognized: There are very few Belouch carpets which deserve great fame.
But regardless of where one might come down on that issue, there is little doubt the Chakhansur carpet has assumed somewhat mythical proportions in the small world of Belouch rugs.
Oh, and another reason is probably the fact the Chakhansur carpet is in the collection of the deYoung Museum, thanks to its gifting by Caroline McCoy Jones.
On his website, tcoletribalrugs.com, cole has republished an article he wrote about the rug that originally appeared in that rag hali issue 128.
For a long time RK has resisted commenting on professor steve “aka steev the rug clown” price’s dopey turk0tek.com, and we are not going to resume debunking the moronic, time-wasting drivel that website consistently publishes.
But the fact the Chakhansur carpet has become an item there lately is the only reason we mention it today.
RK knows the true story of this rug, and we believe it is time to make it public to reduce the totally dishonest myth that has grown up around it thanks to cole’s efforts to hide the truth.
In his piece on his website cole relates he first saw the Chakhansur carpet in 1994 in Pakistan and “six months later” bought it.
“A Pashtun tribesman from Kandahar, with no background in the art trade and addicted to opium, Hajji was always huddled on a cushionin the corner beside an electric heater, a blanket wrapped around his hunched shoulders, drinking tea.
His appreciation of tribal rugs was minimal, preferring ornate Persian town carpets to the coarser weavings of the peoples of Central Asia, but some of the best Baluch rugs in Pakistan passed through his hands.
One day in December 1994 he took me up to the roof to look at a carpet which could not be properly seen within the confines of the shop.
We climbed the crumbling stairs to the top of the one-storey building.
The cold, clear winter air and views of the city and the surrounding snow-capped mountains were refreshing, but any preconceptions of what I might see were immediately dashed.
There lay a rug of unimaginable size, unbelievable colour and unexpected design. My senses reeled as my mind struggled to assimilate the information when, in response to my enquiry in Farsi, "Chan ast?", Hajji uttered what seemed to be an unbelievable, certainly unprecedented, price.
No one had ever asked such a sum in Pakistan for any rug, and few Baluch weavings in the international marketplace had ever achieved such a level.
Safe home a few weeks later I realised that this was a carpet I had to have. But I was unable to return to Baluchistan for another six months. In the meantime, rumours had spread throughout the market in Pakistan. Dealers in the Peshawar bazaar whispered about a fantastic rug of great size and beauty, and a few foreigners had ventured to Quetta to see it. But none had pulled the trigger. So I paid Hajji the money and with some difficulty carried the carpet to Peshawar and shipped it back to California.”
Like many in RugDUMB tom cole lives in a fantasy world where myth and bullshit become reality with regularity.
These people -- be they collectors, collector/dealers, bedroom dealers or big-time rug shop dealers – have no modesty in rewriting history.
And they get away with it because there is no peer-review in oriental rug studies and dealing.
RK is the only voice who dares to publicize the truth.
To say there is no transparency would be an understatement, as would claiming RugDumb is anything but a place where liars, cheats and scoundrels roam.
Back to cole and the Chakhansur carpet.
RK first saw the Chakhansur carpet when cole proudly showed it to us in his former home in San Anselmo, California. This was in maybe 1999 or 2000.
He told us he had just purchased the carpet.
He then told us the circumstances under which he had been able to get it.
According to cole “I called George Hecksher from Pakistan and told him I had seen a great Belouch rug and wanted to buy it but the price was 30,000 dollars and I could not afford it.”
He then went on to tell us “I offered Hecksher the chance to buy it for a small profit if he would send me half the money, $15,000 dollars, and I would put up the other half myself. If he did not want to buy it I would then sell it and we would split the profit”
He then asked me what I thought of the rug.
We told him it was an interesting rug but since we did not think hardly any Belouch rug was anything but a derivative copy of a Turkmen, Caucasian or Persian rug our opinion was nothing more than that.
After seeing the rug that day in cole’s living-room we basically forgot about it.
Though soon after we did ask George Hecksher about the story, and he affirmed what cole had told us was true.
At that time we were acting as Hecksher’s rug consultant and had helped him to acquire some of the best Turkmen rugs in the collection he then donated to the deYoung Museum.
Anyway, some months later we saw the Chakhansur rug hanging on the wall in jim blackmon’s former, and now defunct, gallery on Bush Street in San Francisco.
When we asked blackmon about it, and if it was for sale, he told us “I have already sold it to Caroline McCoy Jones.”
When we asked him how much he sold it for he proudly told us “Sixty thousand dollars.”
That evening we called George Hecksher and asked him if he knew the Chakhansur carpet was hanging in blackmon’s gallery?
Hecksher told us he did not know that.
We then asked Hecksher if he knew Blackmon had sold the rug to Caroline McCoy Jones?
Again Hecksher said he did not know that either.
Hecksher then told us the following “Recently tom cole called me and told me he felt guilty about not being able to sell the Chakhansur rug and wanted to return the $15,000 I had given him to buy it.”
When I asked if cole had given him the money Hecksher said yes he had.
Well, we then told Hecksher to call cole and get another $15,000 because Blackmon had sold it for $60,000!
Some days later we asked Hecksher if he called cole and he said he had and that cole fessed up to misleading him and was going to pay him the additional $15,000 profit.
So much for the myth cole has tried to perpetrate on his website and in the article that appeared in that rag hali.
By the way RK can substantiate cole’s dishonesty as he also cheated us. But that’s another story for another day…