Over the four and a half decades RK has been interested in historic oriental rug collecting and research we have known or met every 'serous' collector who got involved in this art area.
Let's be clear here: When we say 'serious' we mainly mean those who seriously opened their wallets to purchase pieces.
Yes, yes we know not everyone had the financial might to step up to the plate and swing a big bat. But face facts unless one did so they were ignored by that rag hali, and of course only 'serious' collectors get their name in that rag hali: that's what this short notice is all about.
We just learned Ben Fernandas has passed away and while RK did not know him in any sense of the word -- we only met him once -- we do know all about his life in rugDumb.
From his obiturary notice in that rag hali's website:
"...and over the past several years many of his best rugs have been offered and sold through Christie’s in London, as the property of an ‘Asian Collector’, often at prices well below those he had paid for them from some of the world’s leading dealers or at auction. But for Ben, it was never about the money. A good friend to the rug world who gave back much more than he took, he will be greatly missed."
As always reading what that rag hali writes and knowing the truth is an exercise in semantics at best and one of opposites in reality.
Fernandas, in company with every other 'serious' oriental rug collector we have ever known, lost money and big money on his collection. There was only one person who escaped this fate -- Henirich Kirchheim. And while his story is on the surface similar to Fernandas, and we do not believe Heinrich knew more than Ben, Kirchheim's almost crazy zeal to spend, in the end, saved him.
The Kirchheim chapter is a far more interesting one than the Fernandas footnote and perhaps one day RK will publish that autobiography we have hinted at for years and tell all about Kirchheim. But for now that's not going to happen.
Back to Fernandas.
Why did Fernandas lose so much money on just about anything he tried to sell? Briefly, because he bought the wrong rugs at the wrong time and tried to sell them at the wrong time in the wrong way.
To say he was a sucker who got suckered by major dealers is part of the story. But the person who sucker punched Ben Fernandas the most was Ben Fernandas himself.
Yes, just like all those other by now well known, thanks to that rag hali, 'serious' rug collectors, Fernandas thought he could master the art of purchasing rare oriental rugs and though he relied at different times of his about 30 year collecting safari on the 'advice' of others, they were always sellers trying to get him to buy from them.
Only a fool would rely on the advice of a potential seller. And only a bigger fool would spend big money without an independent expert at his side.
Hello Ben Fernandas.
There is another point in that obiturary worth elucidating here: "A good friend to the rug world who gave back much more than he took...".
Oh yeah, and not to sound snotty, but what did Ben Fernandas give back to the rug world?
And even more pertiment what did the rug world give to him?
As for the latter it gave a man with some money a chance to be a big fish in a small puddle. He got to see his name mentioned in that rag hali whenever his wallet opened up wide enough to buy him some "cred", aka credibility.
And like Ignatus Vok he gave a few 'parties' for rugdom's illuminati which also got his name on everyone's lips...at a price.
As to the former, what did Ben Fernandas give to the rug world?
Knowing what we have written above, which is fact not fiction like that rag hali's obit, one has to honestly say nothing, other than supporting a few major dealers and auction houses who benefitted from his patronage and paddle waving.
Before we leave Mr Fernandas's legacy for history to decide, mentioning his attempt to open a museum in Singapore well exemplifies how the wheels of rugDUMB turn, or is it freeze and shut down.
First off Fernandas was a rug dealer first and a collector second. And if this point is thought to be debatable let RK immediately disabuse any contenders who might try.
Fernandas had a shoppe in Singapore and he tried to sell rugs. His alleged museum wss nothing but an attempt to bolster his rug business. A ploy that failed and failed miserably.
That's why he shut it down after only several years. Forget his exuses why, the reason was it was a 100% failure from the getgo.
Someone famous once quipped "It's not where you begin the journey, it's where you end up".
Sadly for Ben Fernandas, and every other serious rug collector we know of, their ends do not at all justify their means.