Several hours ago the disposal sale of the rudnick collection became history and RK feels it pertinent to add some well-needed real history to what others will say and claim.
First off, of course, is the money end...what sold well and what didn't.
In essence it was a day of prayer rugs –well only several, actually three that scored the highest prices of the sale.
RK had predicted both in public and in private only a few lots would soar and the rest would also sell but they would be destined to languish in the catalog's cheap estimated ranges. And that's exactly what happened.
There were only 3 unsold lots of the 107, which totals a 98% sales rate.
We had heard from someone close to him that mitchell rudnick, the former side-kick with the wallet turned decider-in-chief, told the auctioneer "sell everything, I do not want to see any of these things ever again".
So much for the passionate collecting spirit he and his now dementia-soaked wife were alleged to have possessed and heralded as such by hypemeisters like that rag hali.
And before we go further the fact his wife is now lost in space should have no bearing on how their collection could have been handled to both honor the 30 plus years they spent acquiring it, and more importantly honoring all the words spoken in their direction, of course first and foremost by themselves, as to what 'rug lovers' they are and how they want to do something important for this art form.
Ha, in the end nothing but worthless patter.
The old “Know me by my actions not my words” turns the rudnick alleged passion for this art form into nothing but a hollow, transparent pursuit of their wanna-be somebody in rugDUMB status. Their exit stage right is both an embarrassment to any and all the false pretences this couple spent years trying to establish, and a get-real that showed them to be as RK has always claimed -- a pair of nobodies with a wallet having little taste and even less knowledge.
Very few of the auction lots sold above their estimates, actually only 20 of the rug related 100 lots. And mind you the estimates were cheap, far less than the rudnicks paid. Mostly they were 30-60% less from what we can gather according to the prices we know for a fact they paid, or those we have heard from others who do.
Low estimates are a good idea, they entice buyers regardless of the fact they will be eclipsed on sale day. However, as in this case, the goods were in line with those low estimated prices as viewed by today’s “if it ain’t early and/or great it’s worth less than ten and twenty years ago” market psychology. The final result being only a few lots had what it now takes to breakout and cause big upside surprises.
So while the sale percentage makes it look amazingly successful in fact the rudnick's took a huge bath financially. Even more so considering their money was invested decades ago ending up with absolutely no return (only a loss) on investment, and more significantly a far less than 100 percent return of investment.
It was very interesting to compare what the rudnicks bought from who, as all the seller's names were enumerated in the catalog. Dealers, like ronnie newman, bertram frauenknecht, several famous dealers in Turkey and a few other household names we could mention, that consistently sold them examples that preformed poorly in the auction and netted major loses.
So much for trusting dealers like these to provide 'investment' worthy rugs.
As we said it was a day of prayer rugs with the highest price of the sale -- 50,000 dollar hammer price, going to lot 60 an op-art dazzler Kuba prayer rug with a white field loaded with Rockefeller Center Christmas tree worthy twinkling multi-colored hooked parallelagrams and a quirky mustache twirled mirhab.
Sporting an 1810 date that is in our opinion absurd considering the jam-packed field format and plethora of borders -– both signs it is probably closer to 1850 – its age really matters not as the rug is a slam-dunk crowd pleaser for sure. The 61,000 usdollars price realized (50K hammer plus buyers premium of 22%), is high considering what we know can be found elsewhere in that price range.
Two other prayer rugs, lot 54 and 55, were the other high flyers.
Left: lot 54; Right: lot 55
The first, a silk-wefted, well articulated complex patterned example of a quite rare type was far from the best of this small group, but it was old enough and in good enough condition to warrant the 51,850usdollars (42,500 hammer plus premium)
We have to say it was money wiser spent than lot 60.
This was the second highest price in the sale with the 45,750usdollars (37,500 hammer plus premium) paid for lot 55 in third place.
Lot 55 is a wonky prayer rug version of the classic two-one-two large central medallion flanked by two pairs of smaller medallion format. This rug was a favorite of many, but from RK’s sophisticated and knowledgeable viewpoint it’s fool’s gold, as the proportions are so abominable and amateurish we just can’t possibly be convinced it is anything but pseudo-interesting. It’s like bad folk-art, something trying to be clever that actually isn’t. And by comparsion to lot 54 well overpriced.
We are sure this opinion will upset the apple-cart of more than the successful buyer but proportions do not lie and this prayer rug has been squeezed together and the forced, ungainly, result ain’t a pretty picture. Then there are those two pair of smaller medallions, whose interior elements have that clunky, derivative look of meaninglessness weavers not well-connected to their weaving heritage use because they do not understand what should be there in the first place.
Borders often tell more about a weaving than a field. Here the somewhat failed attempt to create a major border displaying the wide, cool, floating rondels seen in the best of the Talish rugs, or the rather tepid attempt to produce an outer minor border anywhere close to the supreme harliquin form and coloration the soumak khorgin, lot 6, achieves mark lot 55 as both derivative and something far from the heights the best trans-Caucasian weavers were able to produce.
However, this rug is not without merit, it just does not merit the appreciation it has been given since it appeared on the cover of a 1991 Skinner Auction catalog, where the rudnicks stepped up to the plate to get it.
We did not like it then and our opinion has not changed over the passing 25 years.
There was another type of Caucasian weaving that took off at the sale – soumak khorjins. Two of them soaring to heights almost equal to the prayer rugs but, in fact, much higher on a dollar per square inch calculation.
One RK sold the rudnicks in 1988 lot 6, we still own the pair to it, made 39,650 usdollars (32.500 hammer plus premium) and the other lot 1 made 33,550 usdollars (27,500 hammer plus premium) were two other high flyers.
Left: lot 1; Right: lot 6
Lot 6 is, and not only in our opinion, a masterwork of geometry and color that transcends any label like oriental rug, Caucasian, Islamic Art, etc. It was iconographically unlike anything else in the sale, or for that matter hardly anything elsewhere.
RK was glad to see a number of bidders “got it” and saw it for what it is.
We must say, in our estimation, it is far better than anything else in the rudnick collection and will in the future be far more appreciated than the quirky prayer rug lot 60 that out-sold it by almost double.
The other high flying khorjin, lot 1, came from Ebberhart Herrmann and RK has been on record about it for many years. It’s a nice thing but not nearly in the class of lot 6.
There were a couple of other rugs that preformed well but they have little to interest us and quite frankly we are not going to bother to mention them. That being the case we will add the best buy of the sale was the Lenkoran, lot 46, that sold for 5,000usdollars hammer price. Good buy, and RK's congrats to whoever was sharp enough to bag it.
That's it for this go round, and we'll close it down with the following.
The rudnick’s modus operandi in rugland was typical of many others we have seen and interacted with over the past 50 years we have been collecting and researching historic carpets. They thought reading some books and learning on their own, along with meeting and then trusting some dealers to help, would guarantee a great collection and high quality return on their investment of time and money.
Sadly it didn’t. They are proof pudding this is not what happens when you go down that route. And they are not alone, they have much company.
Including buyers from this sale, who in our opinion are falling into the same trap and will end up exactly where the rudnicks did – forming collections of rugs that in the future will not be as valuable collecting-wise and monetarily as they appear to be today.
Being able to predict what will hold value is the hardest and most difficult facet of rug collecting, and very few people in its history have been able to do it.
Without blowing our horn too loud RK has proven our ability and should our collection ever be sold publicly this statement will be proven fact.
And if any of our readers are smart enough to seek our counsel, and motivated enough to want to acquire the best, we can guarantee they will not end up like the rudnicks.
’Nuff said for tonight.