RK has written many times about the unfair treatment non-classical weavings, particulatly those masterpieces from Anatolia and Turkmenistan that are as early and even rarer than Ottoman and Safavid atelier produced ones, receive thanks to the discriminate and prejudical attitudes held by so-called important carpet experts.
Most recently RK railed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA)'s decision to include hardly any non-classical rugs in their first rotation to be shown in the newly renovated Islamic Department.
That can be read here for those who missed it or would like to refresh their recollection.
The distinct prejudice shown in favor of court rugs at the expense of equally worthy Anatolian village rugs and Turkmen clan weavings is nothing new, it has gone on for more than a century and it is time to stop.
The person responsible for curating the exhibition at MMA's new galleries is Walter Denny.
Denny is probably America's most recognized rug man and his reputation is responsible for earning him the job at the MMA. RK knows Denny well and while he talks of his "appreciation" for village and clan rugs he rarely if ever is able to express anything more enlightened than that vague sentiment in print or action.
Denny is already upset with RK because we have critiqued some of his non-classical rug chops and had the nerve, aka the courage, to dare say something negative about the great MMA and their inability to demonstrate leadership in presenting the public with cutting- edge carpet exhibitions and research.
Witness their last and most recent effort, the moribund "Carpets in Paintings" exhibition. RK railed at that as well, and it is here for anyone who missed it.
This carpet in paintings meme is so old hat it does not deserve to see the light of day in 2015.
Anyway now comes the James Ballard publication, authored by Denny, and an accompanying exhibition in the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM), who along with the MMA received as gifts from Ballard the majority of his vast carpet collection.
Below is the publicty handout from the SLAM website.
" During the early 20th century, St. Louis businessman James F. Ballard became one of the country’s top collectors of Oriental carpets. An unlikely collector, he was celebrated for his approach to collecting Anatolian carpets from provincial centers in Turkey at a time when most other rug connoisseurs were acquiring the classical Persian and Indian carpets.
In addition to his passion for collecting, Ballard was also a patient teacher, inveterate traveler, and, above all, the first Oriental carpet enthusiast to acknowledge the importance of Turkish influence on the history of the pile carpet.
Ballard ultimately divided his collection of carpets between The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1922 and the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1929. Another group of carpets were added to the St. Louis collection through a later donation by his daughter, Nellie Ballard White, in 1972. As a result of these two gifts, the Museum has amassed a collection of Oriental rugs recognized as one of the most significant collections in the world.
The Carpet and the Connoisseur will highlight 51 carpets from the Ballard collection, including three Cairene rugs, a Spanish rug, and examples of “Lotto” and small-pattern “Holbein” carpets, all important examples of works from the late-15th and 16th centuries. Ballard also acquired two 19th-century Persian pleasure tents that were used for outdoor gatherings. These are also featured in the exhibition."
What's wrong with this picture?
Notice in the first paragraph this:
"An unlikely collector, he was celebrated for his approach to collecting Anatolian carpets from provincial centers in Turkey at a time when most other rug connoisseurs were acquiring the classical Persian and Indian carpets."
Now where do we see any mention of these Anatolian provincial rugs in the publicity for the show?
Of course, nowhere. But we do see attention paid to classical rugs:
The Carpet and the Connoisseur will highlight 51 carpets from the Ballard collection, including three Cairene rugs, a Spanish rug, and examples of “Lotto” and small-pattern “Holbein” carpets, all important examples of works from the late-15th and 16th centuries. Ballard also acquired two 19th-century Persian pleasure tents that were used for outdoor gatherings."
So James F Ballard made a name for himself by collecting provincial examples, and BTW RK knows he scored some important ones thanks to our owning a number of the catalogs Ballard produced about his collection and the gift he gave, but SLAM is highlighting his classical rugs at their expense.
OK, now why do you think this is the situation?
No guess work needed, it's Walter Denny again.
Denny is the curator SLAM relied upon to chose the examples for exhibition, and again, like at the MMA, Denny talks village but walks classical.
And why do you think this is what he does?
There are two reasons, one obvious and the other not so.
The first Denny and his masters at MMA and SLAM are brainwashed and prejudiced to believe the classical court rugs are better than the earliest and best village and clan rugs, which are now known to be as early. They also foolishly believe the designs on court rugs filtered down to the village weavers, when in fact it is highly probable the opposite happened.
One thing is sure the iconographies of the earliest masterpiece village and clan rugs are so much more complex and interesting than the purely naturalistic, but beautiful, iconographically mute classical rugs there is no comparison or contest.
The second reason is Walter Denny, who like most recognized carpet experts for instance the leading lights jon thompson, louise mackie, michael franses, etc, knows very little about village and clan rugs.
In fact all of them were too ignorant to recognize the 'bellini rug' dennis dodds sold to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Collectors Committee, which was bought solely as a gift to the museum, was not a 16th century masterpiece but surely a late genre period reproduction not earlier than 1750.
Let's remember: All of them, Denny, thompson and mackie recommended the purchase when contacted by the museum, and michael franses had formerly owned it and sold it to dodds as 17th century.
So any wonder Denny prefers to hang the classical rugs he feels confident enough to talk about rather than village and clan rugs he knows hardly anything about?
RK considers Denny a friend of ours, but we know he is very upset with us for calling him out with the facts, instead of keeping quiet.
BTW we have also demonstrated Denny's weakness with the idiom when he has tried to discuss two rugs from the Wolf Collection in articles published in that rag hali.
Those can be read here:
So is it any wonder when Denny is in charge classical rugs take the stage and village and clan rugs are shunted to the sidelines?
We look forward to reviewing the Ballard publication "The Carpet and the Connoisseur: The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs" Denny has written.
And while we are sure he has paid some usual lip service to Ballard's village and clan rugs those comments will be as eminently worthy of critique as were his 'bellini' recommendation and his pimping those two weavings from the Wolf Collection.
We do hope professor Denny proves us wrong but we will be glad to bet those donut-holes against us dollars he won't.