It’s not Anatolian, it’s a Baluch fragment, read on; Lot 71 December 9th 2018 skinner auction; ronnie newman collection
RK can’t remember when we first encountered ronnie newman but quite frankly of that we are glad. To say newman was a disgusting excuse for a human being is not stretching any possible connotation that phrase might conjure up. The phrase we are of course talking about is ‘human being’, as newman’s often professed urges to have sexual relations with young underage boys excludes any possible misinterpretation.
RK is no homophobe. We’re a libertarian and a libertine; however the term consenting adult hardly ever entered into newman’s vocabulary.
Our aim here is not to turn this into a condemnation of newman’s rampant desires to fondle hunky, cute, young men but rather to discuss what he did, or more properly what he did not do, in rugdumb.
Supposedly newman now suffers from advanced Alzeheimer’s disease and at this point doesn’t know a Kazak from a Kazuk. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy is all RK wants to say.
The last time we spoke to him was circa 1975/6 when he pestered us to come out to his house in New Jersey for another visit. We had been there several times and after each visit swore we would not return.
See newman’s modus operandi was to invite people who knew far more than he did about carpets to his house so he could query them about weavings he had. It was a show and you tell me about what I am showing game.
After being subjected to this ploy on each visit -- his showing rugs to solicit our opinion and then refusing to sell them – we had had enough. And his ensuing invitations to visit fell on deaf ears.
On that last visit one of the weavings he showed us was an interesting large Turkmen chuval that ended up as lot 139 in part one of the newman collection dispersal sale at skinners.
Lot 139 skinner auction Oct. 21, 2018
In 1975 it was something our far less than now well developed knowledge of Turkmen weavings thought important. Today we know better, as it is nothing earth shattering and probably nothing but a middle 19th century, end of the line but genuine, Tekke product. It’s surely not 18th century as many bidders believed and the skinner catalog stated.
At that time, back in 1975, we tried hard to get newman to sell it but he refused, and we again left vowing never to return.
We should mention that before he showed it he intimated if we liked it he would sell it. So we fell into the trap, expressed interest and he then made excuses why he could not make a price. Naturally this ticked us off, expecially since we had been through this same drill before.
Months later while still trying to entice us to visit he finally played the card and said “Remember that Turkoman piece you liked? If you come out to my house I will sell it to you”. When we asked the price he said “a thousand dollars”.
Back then this was a extremely high price for ant Turkmen chuval, but since we had not seen anything like it before, and knew far less, we bit the bullet and said “OK, we’ll visit.”
When we got there newman tried to get us to give opinions about several other rugs, but we kept quiet and said little other than “Oh, that’s interesting” or “That’s nice”.
This game was quickly running out of juice so we said to newman “Where’s the chuval.”
He said “OK, I’ll go and get it”. When he returned he had a miserable, late, Ersari torba, which had a similar large format with one row of‘salor’ type gol and flanked by two rows of smaller half gol, in his hands.
“Here it is” newman said as he carefully laid it on the ground so as to not have it fall apart then and there.
“Hey man” we said “That is not the same bag you showed us last time. In fact it is not even a chuval, it’s a torba, forget the fact it’s not close to as early or interesting.”
“No, it’s the same piece” newman said but instead of arguing the point we instantly got up, walked out the front door, got in our car and stepped on the gas. This time never to return.
True story, and believe us we are sure he played a similar bait and switch game with others until eventually hardly anyone came to visit.
Over the years, as the rug market developed, the prices newman became accustomed to quoting became legendary thanks to their ridiculous and mostly unwarranted higher than high level.
Nothing wrong with asking a high price for an exceptional example, but because of his unabashed greed and less than expert rug knowledge, newman became famous as a rip-off. Forget his persistent deviousness and the disgusting patter about his lust for hunky young guys, or at times his recounting sexual trysts with truckers in truck stop men’s rooms while on the road going to auctions.
Listen up, he surely did not have any opportunity to tell RK any of this, and we must state we heard such stories from others who heard them first-hand from newman.
OK, let’s get to the point of all this.
The fact ronnie newman is called a collector, and thought of by many as a carpet savant, is just another joke in rugDUMB. Both of these ideas are as bogus as a three dollar bill, as newman was neither. He was a selfish self-serving dealer, period and end of discussion.
We will gladly admit he found some wonderful weavings but those were all sold long before his brains became mush and his ‘collection’ hit the auction block.
The first installment, and the second as well, contained numerous rugs he had been trying to sell for years, offering them from Maine to Spain both publicly and privately. Some, like lot 139, for decades with no takers even after posting them multiple times on rugrabbit, aka rugGRABit, .com.
Many because their prices were completely way out of any reality picture, and others because they were not early or good enough to attract interest.
The hype around newman started when the now long defunct rug magazine, ORR – oriental rug review, published an article about him titled “Who’s Afraid of ronnie newman?”.
This was, perhaps, the greatest thing that ever happened to him.
Like a number of others we could mention who have, like newman, a dubious public reputation as an expert collector, he was able to prosper.
Some of the best weavings he sold went to George Hecksher and are now in the deYoung Museum thanks to Hecksher’s gifting. But that’s the tip of the iceberg, and we are sure there are a gaggle of far lesser examples in the hands of trusting collectors who fell for the ronnie newman hype.
The mediocre prices just about everything in the first sale – part one -- made is excellent proof of the vastly over-rated ‘collection’ newman had. Same will be proven by what will happen at the coming part two.
Anyway while we have now said our piece, we would like to drop the hammer on lot 71 in the December 9 sale…...
This fragment was originally sold at a sotheby New York carpet sale on December 14, 2001 (lot 26). It sold for $26,050 and was called “Sarkisla” and dated early18th century in the catalog.
After newman purchased at the sale rumor has it he claimed it was 17th century, or earlier. And needless to say stuck with the erroneous Sarkisla attribution.
RK examined it at the sale preview and while it has rich blazing color, it is not any earlier than middle 18th century and surely is not like any “Sarkisla” weaving we have ever seen. Nor it is even like any Anatolian pile weaving that exists.
We have no hesitance to say it is probably a rare Baluch weaving, made somewhere in the north region of the Black Sea. In what is considered to be the ancient homeland of the Baluch.
We are sure this will rankle many of the would-be bidders, who foolishly believe the untenable hype this fragment is Anatolian and much older than we claim.
BTW we emailed skinners asking for better pics and a technical description but lazy larry kearney, skinner’s present rugman, never bothered to email back.
This is not the first time lazy larry has done this, and his do as little as possible to earn his keep as their carpet man attitude is not very professional. We must say his lack of any catalog descriptions, forget cogent ones with proper technical descriptions, bodes poorly for him. Plus, if rumors have it correct, lazy larry has been padding the sales since he has been skinner’s rug ‘expert’ with a bunch of his own merchandise.
Again, not very honest or professional but it is lawful, as Massachusetts allows an auctioneeer to sell his own goods at public auction without publicly stating his ownership interest.
Never forget, Caveat Emptor.
As a postscript newman once upon a time had some weavings that were genuinely superior and outstanding. However, those have long been out of his hands and sold.
Any illusions skinner’s is selling his “collection” is nonsense. Fact is: What is being touted as “the ronnie newman collection of early ruga” is nothing but the rejected, leftovers he was unable to sell at anything near the outrageous prices he foolishly believed they were worth.
The passage of time always has a way of proving the worthlessnesss of hype.
In newman’s case the skinner’s sale of his “collection” leaves little to no doubt he was a tireless self-promoting rug dealer, whose collection was never anything more than his unsold inventory. One that long before his dealing days were over was cherry-picked of everything that might have raised eyebrows in 2018 or, as a rug-blogger we know likes to say, capable of “getting the rug mob buzzing”.