Home > LACMA's Questionable Rug Purchase >The LA Times looks at the LACMA Rug
email: jc@rugkazbah.com
Mon, Feb 21st, 2005 04:49:19 PM
Topic: The LA Times looks at the LACMA Rug

After a number of weeks of dealing with the Los Angeles Times here is the article they chose to publish. We now have a number of questions about the paper’s ability to present the facts, as well as their objectivity in presenting them and our position concerning them. Read it yourself and decide.

We have added comments in bold type to assist those who might not have spent the time required to read all the information RK.com has provided about this deplorable situation.

published February 21, 2005

Carpet's old but not quite that old. After a LACMA acquisition is called into question, further examination is done. The museum says the Turkish rug is genuine but not circa 1600.
If that isn’t the smoking gun to make anyone other than dodds, LACMA and the three stooges suspicious of this purchase RK doesn’t know what would be. LACMA’s refusal to recognize their errors (and the Time’s choice to go along for the ride) could be no better demonstrated than by using this comment to frame the issue at hand. Let’s remember the rug was originally presented and sold as 16th century and the circa 1600 date was then floated by LACMA to hopefully to end any further discussion about this obvious questionable dating. Clearly that didn’t work, especially since denny now has basically pegged it as circa 1750.

By Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writer
RK spoke to a number of writers at the Times and frankly ms muchnic was, in our opinion, the least well equipped to handle it. Her presentation reflects this, as there are a number of errors in her reportage. Our subsequent comments will point those out. Was there another agenda and reason for choosing her? RK.com believes there might have been.

A Turkish carpet in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — acquired as a circa-1600 work but disparaged by a New York rug dealer as a much later reproduction — has emerged from a preliminary investigation with its authenticity intact but a later estimated date of creation.
Describing Jack Cassin as a New York rug dealer is about as veracious as calling Lisa Fung, the arts and culture editor of the LA Times, a corner newspaper-boy.

"We have no significant doubts about the carpet," said Nancy Thomas, deputy director of the museum. "But like a lot of acquisitions, it has gone under a microscope since it came here. That's just part of normal museum business. We now feel comfortable in dating it at 1650 to 1750." LACMA has also established that the carpet was made in Ladik in the Konya region of central Turkey, she said.
RK spoke with ms nancy thomas and would characterize her as the cheerleader for the Museum’s bunker-mentality and refusal to face the true facts about the rug importance. Plus her statement that “…it has gone under a microscope since it came here. That's just part of normal museum business.” is totally inaccurate and misleading as the only reason the carpet has been called into question has been the result of RK’s insistence the rug is “not right”. Surely LACMA wouldn’t have questioned anything about the sale had we not forced the issue on them. This should be abundantly clear to all concerned and ms. nancy thomas’s attempt to cover-up that fact does not sit well with RK.com. And neither should it with you, our readers. Also we’d ask ms. thomas if it is normal museum procedure to have the date of any work of art in their collection revised upwards by 2oo years?

The new information about the carpet came from LACMA staff's consultation with Walter Denny, an eminent authority on Islamic art and architecture, who is a professor of archeology and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a research associate at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.
Again this “consultation” was nothing the Museum decided to undertake on their own but was only done in response to RK.com’s crusade.

Denny was one of several people who vetted the carpet before LACMA bought it. He based his initial judgment on a transparency and studied the actual work in late January, when he came to LACMA to deliver a lecture, Thomas said.
Right and after studying it denny significantly revised his dating of the carpet - making it at least 100 years newer and, at the maximum, stating it could even be 200 years newer. Trying to gloss this over adds more fuel to an unfortunate situation RK.com has characterized as an “art-crime” and cover-up.

LACMA bought the carpet — a knotted wool-pile work measuring about 6 feet by 8 feet — last year from Philadelphia rug dealer Dennis Dodds for an undisclosed sum.
This, like a number of other points ms. muchnic has presented erroneously, is totally untrue. RK.com clearly stated our first comment about the cost was proved to be somewhat inaccurate by our further investigations. We then stated for the record the actual cost was $250,000.oo and even detailed how, when and by whom the funds to purchase the carpet were secured. This is no secret and muchnic’s failure to accurately present this information cast a deep shadow over her ability to correctly report the story as well as her ability to do the research necessary to accomplish that task correctly. Not to say it also reflects poorly on her objectivity as a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper.

The purchase was funded by members of the collectors committee, a support group that helps the museum buy works recommended by the curators.
This is true and it is public knowledge this collector’s committee paid $250,000.oo for it.

The carpet was recently displayed at the museum in "Luxury Textiles East and West," an exhibition of highlights from the textiles and clothing collection.

Questions about the carpet's authenticity arose when New York rug dealer and author Jack Cassin, who directs the online Weaving Art Museum, heard of the acquisition and charged that it was much newer than the museum thought.
And that charge, even if LACMA or ms muchnic refuse to countenance it, has been substantiated by what denny has said. Please note RK.com doesn’t need denny or anyone to tell us which way the wind blows. We know it blows down, with hurricane proportions, the specious and highly inaccurate opinions dodds, the museum and even denny hold about this dud of a Turkish re-entrant rug. And we have proven, beyond any doubt, the rug is not a masterpiece, is not circa 1600 and most important is not a museum worthy piece of textile art

Cassin, who had not seen the carpet and based his judgment on photographs, claimed it was an 18th century or 19th century reproduction.
Again this is one more example of ms muchnic’s failure to properly report this issue. It is true in the first piece we wrote we said this but in all later references we clearly stated we had seen the rug in person in Philadelphia when it was exhibited but had not actually handled it. Perhaps we should have made that more clear but, after all, since our appraisal of the carpet has now been supported by denny’s revision we do not see what this has to do with anything. Well, we do recognize the underlying shoot the messenger tone of muchnic’s piece and honestly expected it, as the LA Times did not exactly choose to include us in the loop. This is something we found quite distasteful since we brought them the story and provided almost all the information for it. Plus ignoring our specific qualification of the word “reproduction” leads to further misrepresentation of our position.

After contacting LACMA officials and Philadelphia dealer Dodds, he launched a campaign on his website, alleging that the color and design of the carpet were not consistent with earlier craftsmanship. The predominantly red carpet lacks large areas of purple and green "that all masterpieces of early Turkish rugs display," the website said. The site also said that several design elements in the borders and interior, including medallions and checkerboard triangles, were typical of later periods.
Hardy, ha ha. Guess muchnic can’t read very well or concentrate on what she does read for very long. RK.com presents a great deal of factual information, all of which calls into serious question LACMA, dodds and denny’s opinions about this carpet. And muchnic’s selective choice of just those two, from the myriad of others that were available, is ludicrous – it shows the lack of objectivity and bias she brought to her job of reporting what this issue encompasses. The rug is a late period reproduction and all our comments make that perfectly clear. Period. And choosing those two point as representative of what RK.com has presented is nothing more than yellow-journalism at its highest. Shame on you ms muchnic – you failed miserably in presenting anything other than a continued cover-up of this disaster.

"It's a pastiche," Cassin said of the carpet in a telephone interview.
Very true but we have presented and stated a whole lot more. The fact none of that was reported bodes poorly for muchnic or the LA Times.

Dodds, a longtime dealer who is secretary general of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets, a professional organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of carpets and related textile arts, said Cassin's claims were without merit and unsubstantiated by concrete evidence.
Of course he would, what else would you expect him to say? Plus any objective and talented reporter would have asked dodds to refute the points RK.com has presented to support our claims. Again the fact muchnic and the Times avoided doing this shows only an unacceptable bias and regrettable lack of objective orientation.

"I stand behind the rug 100%," Dodds said. "I supplied the museum with reams of examples of carpets from museums and private collections around the world showing conclusively that the iconography, the architectural detail, in the LACMA carpet is fully consistent with other carpets from this period.
In light of all the documentation RK.com provides it is almost impossible for us to see how muchnic or the Times could possibly allow such a statement to make it into print. Again this goes a great distance to support the cover-up LACMA is trying to still perpetrate.

"The LACMA carpet comes from a distinguished lineage of reputable collectors and dealers," Dodds said. "Over the past 25 or 30 years, it has been published in exhibition catalogs and respected journals. It's one of the great carpets of this type in existence."
Any sane person who has read RK.com, or who knows early Turkish rugs, would have trouble not peeing in their pants with laughter as they read this quote from dodds. What a load of crapola! Distinguished lineage? Remember this rug started its public history in German dealer Franz Bausback’s 1981 exhibition. It then disappeared from view until dodds himself published it in the Atlantic Collections book many years later. It was recently, post sale to LACMA, published in hali in an article written by sherry hunter, who could be easily called a Turkish rug-know-nothing. So please, mr. dodds, show us any other instances to support your hilarious ‘history’ this dud of a rug maintains.

Calling it “… one of the great carpets of this type in existence." does nothing other than call your credentials as an “expert” into serious question. It also is one of the most egregious examples of hyperbole ever uttered in connection with a piece of woven art. It also shows you to be the fool RK.com, and many others, believes you are.

Cassin also claims that the museum paid far too much for the carpet — a price he pegs at about $290,000 — and that the same work was sold in 1981 for about $30,000.
Here again muchnic’s pension for selective reportage shines brightly. While we did state the carpet is overpriced we have clearly downplayed the cost factor and concentrated on the carpet’s merits, or should we say lack of merits. This article is poorly framed as a piece of objective journalism but it is a very good job of assisting LACMA to cover-up the issue. Same with denny’s lecture at the museum, the high point of which was his declaring the carpet to be “pretty”. As we wrote “pretty” is not exactly the way an art expert with denny’s credential should characterize any museum worthy artwork. It’s obvious denny could not, in honesty, say anything else about it so he relied on a meaningless term to extricate himself from the uncomfortable position he found himself in vis-a-via RK.com’s refusal to go along with the silly contentions about this miserable example of pseudo-historic Turkish woven Art.

LACMA declined to comment on the price, citing museum policy.

"We don't have buyer's remorse," Thomas said, adding that the change of the carpet's date does not make it significantly less valuable and that it would not be returned to the dealer.
Either nancy thomas is a moron or she has been shackled by the Museum’s policy. In either case her statement is highly suspicious and calls into question the Museum’s ability to vet itself – something every public institution must accept as part of its mission.

"The next step is to do a dye analysis, and perhaps carbon-14 dating.

We will make the results known at the appropriate time."

Both these “tests” will do little and actually neither will do anything to assure anyone of the truth. RK.com says the only next step is to face facts and call dodds on the carpet for the errors he made in his presentation.

Rest assured dear readers, ms thomas, dennis dodds, Andrea Rich et. al RK.com has yet begun to fight and instead of putting this issue to rest this article and the quotes from LACMA will provide more evidence of the misuse of funds and lack of due diligence the Los Angeles County Art Museum has perpetrated.

Needless to say it also demonstrates the choice to cover-up the facts rather than uncover them the administrators of this Museum believe as their duty.

All in all, as the bard from history wrote “the plot thickens”. More to come stay tuned here on RK.com…

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