Archetypal Anatolian Village Medallion carpet mid-15th century. This rug is the (archetype) model for the example in the Islamic Museum, Berlin, pictured below and the much later example in the Ballard Collection, St. Louis Art Museum, illustrated and discussed below; TIEM, Istanbul, inv. No.314315
Reading though the latest issue of that rag hali, number 187, we decided to jot down some notes and impressions to share with our readers. As the audience of carpet collectors has thinned out like the hairline of most men over the age of forty, and subscriptions sink to a new low point each year, that rag hali has had to adapt. Now the magazine is no longer the main business -- selling tours, publishing books for others and advertising have become what this magazine is all about.
Each issue makes this more and more obvious and, like the business of buying and selling old rugs has greatly decreased, so has the relevance and importance of that rag hali. Nothing makes this clearer than reading ben evans, the feckless editor, editorial. We have no patience to critique it in its entirety, happy talk equals ignorant talk and evan’s views are worthless, but we will be glad to publicly question his remark he has been involved in the oriental rug business for more than 20 years. He has probably been at hali for maybe 10, and where was this carpet-ignoramus working for 10 years before that? We can’t believe a turko-know little like evans has more than 20 years experience. Anyway, anyone who knows or would bother to ask the poor sod about this is welcome to inform RK, we’d surely like to know if we are correct in assuming evans was just mouthing hali-speak, something to which he has become very accustomed.
The next tidbit that caught RK’s attention was Dear Walter Denny’s over the top paean to James F. Ballard, who definitely was an influential collector. But for Denny to claim “…it can be argued that James Ballard’s historical role in the world of carpets transcends that of any other scholar or collector of his or any other time” is complete nonsense, and not even arguable.
What about Joseph McMullan or A.U. Pope both of Ballard’s time. As for earlier luminaries whose lights outshine Ballard one might name include Friedrich Sarre, Wilhelm von Bode and F.R. Martin, just to name a few.
Anatolian Village Medallion carpet circa first half 18th century; James Ballard Collection, St. Louis Art Museum
Regrettably, Dr Denny often acts more like a cheerleader and awed school-boy when describing the prowess and import of the people he is paid to write about, or those who pay him to write about them. Not a grand position for an academic of Denny’s true stature.
Ballard was influential but he was not the Christopher Columbus of rug collecting Denny implies. Another point we have already noted is this hype surrounding James Ballard as the great non-classical rug collector, when almost all the press coverage given to the dusting off of the collection he and his family donated to the St Louis Art Museum(SLAM) has rarely highlighted anything but the classical carpets in his collection. For instance, in this issue of that rag hali a star Ushak varient is pictured.
And in the following article a Ballard Lotto is front and center. How come no Village rug from Anatolia or a Turkmen was used? Go ask Dr Denny. By the way, the same goes for the SLAM press release and just about every other piece of publicity for the book that Denny authored and that rag hali published and is selling.
Next, the reportage of the Vok collection II rippon-boswell auction was stuffed to the gills with goopey praise for the sale and those brave souls who stood up and waved their paddles. Sure there were some outstanding lots there if you want top suzani, but loads of other far from stellar ones, or kelim. But forget a review from that rag hali that will ever winnow the wheat from the chaff. We were amused by these last lines “There was concern that the Persian kilims might not find buyers or the Anatolians would not perform, but both categories mostly sold above high estimates. Perhaps the most valid concern that people should have is whether they will be able to buy anything in the next sale, which will be the last chance to bag a Vok.”
Most of those kelim had ridiculously low estimates, and the fact they all sold for far less than Vok paid for them decades ago makes moot the point they sold. And for those who are having chills about wanting to “bag” a Vok? They should have no worry, there’ll be plenty of possibilities in Vok III, coming up this fall. And if anything should get bagged its Ignatus Vok, a rich man who dumped his 25 year collection like rotten fruit and deserted the carpet world like a Benedict Arnold, missing a great opportunity to become a true friend and benefactor to our community.
RK had to chuckle at the image bagging a Vok evoked, but even more so when reading the totally transparent advert for dealers to sign up for the hali fair at Olympia that rag hali tried to pass off as an article. And then this “HALI will present a talk by the UK-based textile collector Karun Thakar on his reasons for collecting. This will support HALI’s original raison d’être for hosting such a fair platform twenty years ago – to extend the appeal of carpets and textiles to the art- and antique-buying public. Raising the profile of rugs and other weavings is at the core of our being, and remains behind all our activity to this day.”
Hello, planet Earth to that rag hali: if the core of your being is shown by the results of your raising the profile of rugs and other weavings, RK guesses that core is as dead and disappeared as the Dodo bird. The sheer bombast of that statement is immense because the one of the main reasons rug collecting circles have shrunk to the level of those who raise and race pigeons or collect green-stamps demonstrates how ineffectual and worthless those twits who toil at that rag hali’s offices have been in this regard. Patting yourself on the back only works if you have four hands, two to do the patting and two to applaud it.
Then, the review of the SF Tribal art show mentions the selling of this show because one of the promoters, bill caskey, up and died in 2014. RK has no love lost over his passing, as caskey was a rude, autocratic failed American Indian Art dealer turned show promoter the world will surely not miss. Ever one to look for the bright side Danny Shaffer, the only rug-brain left on the editorial side of that rag hali’s business wrote about this year’s show “…as ever, the show offered an amazing ‘pop-up’ museum of tribal art where everything was for sale. In the rug and textile area the overall impact was more eye catching than breathtaking, but with a few ‘stellar’ objects on open view.”
This is hali-speak for nothing rug or textile while was worth a second glance, and no wonder as even the best dealers are having trouble locating outstanding examples and when they do get something it sells immediately within the stable of buyers they all have, by now, cultivated and developed. Regardless of the shrinking marketplace and declining level of general interest, please note, when something early and exceptional turns up it sells immediately, and more significantly on an ever-rising upward price curve.
We have likewise mentioned moshe tabibnia telling us some years ago how he never advertises in that rag hali or needs to because he doesn’t need the publicity. Well, the two page advert for his boring, stale as Saturday night’s leftover pizza crusts, show of ‘carpets in paintings’ attests to the old adage “never say never”. We have heard tabibnia like everyone else is experiencing bottom line sinkage but with the expenses running a gallery like his entails those who know are wondering how long he can keep up the illusion that things are going well.
Louise Mackie, the ex-Washingtin textile museum director and doyen of rugDUMB, has contributed an article about her book “Symbols of Power” published by the Cleveland Museum of Art where she now is employed as curator of textiles and Islamic Art.
Besides her high profile resume, let’s all remember ms Mackie was turko-ignorant, and just plain stupid enough, to approve the purchase of dennis dodds’s late genre period ‘bellini’ rug when asked for an opinion by the curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Unlike Dr. Walter Denny who also made this grievous error but then recanted declaring dodds’s bellini to be the circa 1800 example RK claimed, ms Mackie has never breached the issue again.
Apparently she, like jon thompson who also foolishly approved the purchase, will go to her grave silent about the matter. Too bad because this will hang around her neck forever, like the rotting fish and stinking mess of a rip-off dodds perpetrated with her, thompson’s and denny’s assistance.
For the record, Denny’s mea culpa proved not only RK was correct but more importantly he, unlike the dishonest creeps mackie and thompson proved themselves to be, was man enough to admit his error. We truly are proud to call denny our friend and call out mackie and thompson for their amazingly disgusting refusals to honor the truth.
But you will never read that in that rag hali, who also have never allowed honest discussion about dodds’s thieving act, and how a major American museum fell prey to his greed and prefidy.
Another ode to James Ballard appears in review of the SLAM Ballard exhibition. Authored by Lee Koch, a denizen of St. Louis and Turkmen rug collector who has come a long way in the past ten years from posting amateurish queries on turk0tek.com to presently being tapped by that rag hali to write this and other reviews. Regrettably, it too reeks of that good-golly-gosh amazement those who do not know much about what makes a rug a great one, or just perceived by them as great, rely on to communicate what they see.
“I was not prepared for what I saw. Room after room is filled with dazzling display of colour and design. After my first pass through the show galleries, I felt breathless..” Should we bring oxygen? Please now, Mr Koch, get a grip.
Koch’s short article does picture a couple of Village rugs, a medallion central Anatolian and a south-east Anatolian Yoruk.
Left: Yurok compartment rug first half 19th century; Right: Eastern Anatolian compartment rug, aka Sarkisla, circa 1750 of the type that is the model for Ballard’s; sold at Austria Auction, 2015.
While both of Ballard’s rug are good they are not nearly as good as others of their type, as the comparisons above and below demonstrate.
Left: Ballard Anatolian Village Medallion carpet; Right: prototype Anatolian Village Medallion carpet, second half 16th century, that should be viewed as the transition between the TIEM archetype, shown at the beginning of this commentary, and the later Ballard medallion rug; Berlin Islamic Museum, published in Spuhler, pl.23
RK has written extensively about what we call the “Karapinar Myth”, and Ballard’s medallion carpet could very well have this misnomer applied to it, and so to explain we direct motivated readers to put those two words into our search engine and buckle-up for a whirlwind research paper debunking this fairy-tale with fact and pictures.
We hope Mr Koch will avail himself of this information and trust he will be able to, next time, know when he is truly in the presence of greatness.
As for Ballard’s Tekke MC, Koch has this to say: “I had already written about the Tekke Turkmen main carpet some years ago (HALI 117, p.43) but its compelling colour and unique design elements, along with its archetypal 9X4 gol layout. Made it impossible for me, a self-confessed ‘Turkomaniac’ to exclude.”
We include a picture of Ballard’s nice, but more than somewhat over-rated by Koch, Tekke MC we would date 2nd third 19th century.
Tekke MC, Ballard Collection St. Louis Art Museum
James Ballard was a rich guy who made his fortune selling patent medicines and supposedly spent half of it chasing after oriental rugs and purchasing them for his collection. Ballard was a type of maverick rug collector but, like just about everything in RugDUMB, his reputation is somewhat over-hyped, and next to a Joseph McMullan or George Hewitt Myers, who founded the Washington textile museum and to it bequeathed his enormous collection of carpets and textiles that dwarfs Ballards not only in size but in quality, James F. Ballard’s stature as a carpet collector is properly and positively put into proper perspective.
There, RK has fixed that for you, Lee Koch and Dr Denny!