Although RK’s post-sale comments are not online for long they have already upset some reader’s apple carts resulting in our being assailed for being unfair to rippon boswell’s owner detlef maltzahn who “does a great job writing the catalog”, as well as our “making bad judgments about Vok’s pieces” and our having been “totally wrong about what happened in the saleroom”.
Seems the complainers also believe we have misjudged what they see as a re-emergence of the long dormant Anatolian Kelim collecting market.
Listen up, folks, RK as much as anyone would like to believe the Anatlian Kelim market has been revived. However, we are far too knowledgeable and sanguine to fall for a fairy tale when there is ample proof to negate it.
As we have already stated two Vok auctions do not make a market, nor do they signify the resurgence of an old one.
We grant there were some very important factors that converged in rippon boswell’s saleroom to make such a thought seem real. But it is not real and will prove to have no future carry though anywhere else.
We also grant we misjudged their temporal potency and efficacy.
First is the alleged pedigree a ‘famous’ collector like Vok’s collection offered at auction carries with possible buyers.
Second is the totally fallacious, but nonetheless still recognized by certain buyers, idea auction competition and under-bidder syndrome validate prices.
These combined with a “boswell” effect that has a small group of private clients who believe as gospel everything detlef maltzahn, rippon boswell’s owner, cataloguer and auctioneer says are grounds to open their wallets and buy with abandon.
Sorry but you can’t take reasons like these to the bank, and honestly nothing could be further from the truth.
But it seems a large enough group of naïve and gullible buyers did open up wide and swallow wholeheartedly, and because they did RK’s predictions were far off the money.
As for our declaring Vok’s Anatolian Kelim are mediocre and nothing special compared to the overly generous catalog descriptions?
This is not unfair, it is fact and any honest, unprejudiced expert would have to agree.
There are numerous examples of similar and better in the hands of a number of collectors, and we know dealers with some excellent ones in their stocks who cannot give them away at even half the prices Vok and boswell managed to achieve.
So where’s this new market when these factors are present and accounted for?
Want more proof Vok’s Anatolian Kelim were over-described, over-estimated and surely not worth drooling over?
OK, here it is.
Below we selected almost a dozen from the sale and offer some brief comments.
Lot 91, on the left, is a so-called ‘Kuba’ kelim, a misnomer if there ever was one.
Go find RK a Kuba rug with colors like this kelim displays. You will never find one, and in our estimation this kelim was far more probably made in a workshop in Baku.
OK, let’s not quibble over the unprovable because what’s not unprovable is the undeniable high selling price.
The catalog entry, written by detlef maltzahn, jabbers on about its “sense of serenity, tranquility and vibrant depth”.
This is complete hogwash, and anyone who knows what those words mean would have great difficulty connecting them with a weaving like this one that has an edgy, somewhat nervous vibration thanks to the sharp angles in the border motifs and broad comb-teeth outlines surrounding each of the main elongated hexagon medallions and the half ones between them.
Serene and quiet this kelim, or any of the rather numerous examples of its general type, ain’t.
We grant it is far better than almost all of those, but considering it's not any earlier, and they sell for between 800 and 2,500 euro, the price differential is nowhere near justifiable.
Is it worth 15,000 euro (all prices mentioned will be hammer plus 25% commission)?
We have to say no comparing it to what 15,000 euro can buy in today’s marketplace.
But of course one needs the knowledge and time to find something better, and rippon boswell auctions are predicated on providing a type of table dancing service to those who are looking for such thrills and can afford to pay for them.
Facts like these are not wrong but trying to paint them so is.
The kelim to the right, lot 92, is also from the same “ Kuba” Kelim group, but most buyers would not know this thanks to the catalog’s obfuscation, either out of desire to make Lot 91 seem more rare or just plain ignorance.
We also need mention the catalog’s mistaking the overly complex, late rendition of the ancient birth-symbol icon seen in the center of each of the large medallions for spiders.
The smaller six box-style medallions placed between the first three rows of the larger medallions also show a birth-symbol but here it conforms far closer to the ancient original icon.
What is clear, and this is a continuing flaw in maltzahn’s fanciful catalog descriptions, is a failure to properly interpret abstract symbols due to an incredibly limited knowledge of their historic origins.
A kelim like this is far more the product of Anatolian weaving history, and for all intents and purposes was probably woven there than in the further east, in the “east Caucasus”, as the catalog entry chimes.
It sold for 4,250 euro, a price that is surely not as unreasonable as believing the catalog’s chatter would be.
Lot 93, the kelin saf, sold for 18,750 euro, a big enough price and surely not a bargain by any means in today’s Anatolian Kelim marketplace.
Yet we are sure Vok still lost quite a bit of money, as will the buyer if and when it is resold sometime down the line.
In our presale comments we discussed it and the group to which it belongs, and frankly we are very surprised it sold so well.
But, again, here are the Vok, boswell and under-bidder effects plowing ahead in unstoppable action.
Lot 107 and 108 provide an excellent demonstration anyone with Anatolian kelim experience and expertise would have to characterize as very ignorant bidding.
Lot 107 sold for 14,440 euro and lot 108 for 5,750, almost a third.
Obviously this disparity of perceived value was entirely due to naïve buyers credencing the overly optimistic dating for 107 in the catalog – 18th century for it and mid-19th century for 108.
Since detlef maltzahn couldn’t muster any ideas of his own to support this fairy-tale he quotes the description Ebberhart Herrman gave it in his sales catalog Vok purchased it from decades ago.
Herrmann, who is as lost as maltzahn when it comes to dating kelim, claimed lot 107 is 18th century based on its “style, quality of colors and its lazy lines”.
Sorry, boys, but those are not exclusive and also are indications for a first half to mid-19th century date, as was suggested by udo hirsch who wrote the entry for Vok’s Anatolian Kelim catalog.
This is a perfect example of the blind (detlef maltzahn) leading his trusting but blind clients off the cliff; however, regardless of its dating lot 107 is a rather ugly prayer kelim compared to lot 108, a truly charming and beautiful one.
We’ll just say there’s no accounting for taste, or the distinct lack of it as in this instance.
But there is more happening here that smacks of what RK has continually called RugDUMB’s penchant to believe what is from God’s lips to their ears when someone like Herrmann or maltzahn opens their yapper.
Frankly Herrmann has lately done nothing but consistently prove himself to be a fading stage magician with a dart and oujji board as dating tools.
And a joker like detlef maltzahn should be embarrassed to be still beating the bush for him, pity the poor naïve buyers who swallowed the bait that was chummed in maltzahn’s catalog entries.
RK has already written about lot 108 in our pre-sale missive and we trust readers have already noted our comments.
As unsightly or even perhaps more so in lacking any modicum of so-called painterly artistic value is lot 119. But this did not stop if from selling for a whopping 32,000 euro.
To say the buyer, and under-bidder, were sucker punched by a fanciful but dubious catalog entry would make light of wanton deception.
Again, RK has already commented on detlef maltzahn’s air-sickness bag worthy catalog entry.
Shame really, as the buyer was totally bilked by reading maltazhn’s high praise for something that has hardly any resemblance to the glowing picture he paints.
Far more lucky was the under-bidder in this case, and many others.
Lot 125, the so-called Shahsevan shadda, better known as an under-saddle horse blanket, made 37,500 euro -- another huge price.
Granted at least in this case it was for an excellent but somewhat later example of this type. There are earlier ones but forget the catalog’s intimating this one is among them.
The only reason we can see the next lot, 126, sold for 10,000 euro was the vacuum of sucking air the bidding on lot 107 set up and dragged it along.
There is no doubt lot 125 is the better but is it almost 4 times better?
We’d have to say not and believe the next time either hits the auction block other less easily influenced bidders will have to agree.
Again, do not get us wrong lot 125 is an excellent weaving, it’s just not really worth 37,000 euro -- period, end of discussion.
Lot l27, the sileh soumak we mentioned in our pre-sale commentary did well selling for a high-water mark 22,500 euro.
Compared to lot 125 it appears to be realistic but such a comparison is myopic as any selling venue outside this auction catalog would never value either at the levels they made in this sale.
Speaking of over-paying the 40,625 euro lot 128, another shadda horse blanket, sold for is even more exorbitant. The early 19th century dating is likewise way, way optimistic.
The weaver’s use of a horror vacui style of placing small ornaments all over the field is rarely if ever seen in pre-middle 19th century weaving, an indication that precludes this horse blanket could be any earlier, which by the way is plenty early for this type of weaving.
We admit it is an eminently likeable beautifully designed and colored weaving. It’s just not worth the 40,000 plus euro two excitable paddle wavers got auction hots over.
The catalog attributes lot 140 as coming from a Black Sea town called Ordu, based on an idea udo hirsch published in Vok’s catalog. Never one to question off the wall provenances like this, maltzahn saw no reluctance to use it, as he also has coined a vast number of equally questionable ones.
And while it is important in rug studies to try and determine exactly where weavings were produced, baseless guesses like this do nothing to advance them.
Kelim of this prolific type are usually called Bayburt, or Ezerum but it is obvious this one has characteristics -- like a cotton, not woolen, warp and the very atypical main border not seen in others.
But do these characteristics mean it comes from Ordu?
We sincerely doubt it and see such guess-work as nothing but blatant sales-patter that does nothing to substantiate the 16,250 euro price it brought, a price mind you that would allow the purchase of a champion, early 19th century example made on a woolen warp with silver tread and silk highlights.
There’s no guess-work this would be a far better way to spend 16,000 plus euro. It is also not a difficult one to accomplish because kelim of this group are numerous enough to find, particularly when someone is willing to pay such a price to acquire one.
The Anatolian Kelim on the left, lot 143, has already been profiled in our Ignazio Vok collection II auction preview where we predicted it would not make its estimate, one it soared past selling for 17,500 euro.
However making that price does not negate our comments, it only reinforces it was the result of auction fever, the under-bidder syndrome and the “boswell effect” not the quality or rarity.
Surely not the worst buy in the sale, but neither was it the best.
At 31,250 euro, the price lot 144 brought, the same cannot be said for it.
Obviously the catalog’s specious 17th century dating, based on a highly questionable interpretation of c14 testing results plus a two decades old misinterpretations of archaeological and ethnographic data, were clearly the only reasons.
RK wrote about this in our preview to this sale and encourage all readers to note our explanation.
Not to beat a dead horse the following quote from detlef maltzahn’s catalog spiel is so totally unacceptable it’s mind blowing even a turko-moron like him has not realized regurgitating this goddess-blah blah in 2016 shows nothing but a blatant form of ignorance.
“From an ethnological point of view, this very old kilim previously published on several occasions is the most important Anatolian example in the Vok Collection. No other surviving kilim shows elibelinde designs drawn in a similarly monumental and authentic style as the offset facing pairs that fill the wide elem bands of this item. The motif can be traced back to ancient history, according to Hirsch, it represents a Neolithic goddess figure.”
The last lot we will examine is 160, a Persian Lori Kelim that sold for a humongous 25,000 euro. A totally ridiculous sales price that is in fact embarrassing to anyone who knows anything about oriental rugs and flat-weaves.
We quote from the catalog description, which undoubtedly fueled such a display of ignorant rug buying.
”The nomadic weaver managed the feat of combining dynamic and restful elements in a happy symbiosis…This is a masterpiece of abstract design with a strong appeal to connoisseurs of modern western art.”
If authoring such pablum does not convince any experienced reader detlef maltzahn is as dumb as a keg of warm beer and as dishonest as a junkie car thief, RK gives up.
We will leave you all with this short admonition: When the only means to sell a carpet, even one minimally considered an expression of pre-20th century nomadic tradition, is to foolishly compare it to ‘modern art’ that it has absolutely no relationship other than in a confused mind, trust RK, the end of any possibility for genuine appreciation of antique and historic carpets and flat-weaves has already occurred.
Need we say more?