Yesterday there were a couple of surprises at the Christie London sale and the performance of the risman collection was surely not one of them.
As RK predicted, and this is nothing we take much credit for as it was as obvious as day comes after night, the risman collection performed miserably with only 14 of the 46 lots selling.
Thats 34 percent, not a very strong showing and considering most of the lots that did sell sold for what appears to have been the reserve makes the results even worse.
In fact after a few minutes of reflection on the results RK wonders how many of the lots really sold and to who?
However, something that needs little reflection is how anyone, even a turko-nobody like risman, could have expected anything different from such mediocre group carrying those foolishly over-estimated prices.
Perhaps, and we have already mentioned this, the only curiosity, besides who the buyers were, is why Christies usually quite conservative carpet departments habit of placing low reserves and estimates was thrown out the window?
What kind of goo-goo fairy dust did risman sprinkle on King Street to have gotten Christies sanguine and well- experienced carpet department head Anthony Thompson to allow these ridiculous guesstimates of the turko-fodder called the risman collection to have made it into his catalog?
Also how did Christies Thompson fall for believing risman name had any cachet; that risman was anything but the turko-poseur and know-little; and his collection was anything but a group a man with a wallet far larger than his knowledge or expertise of the subject had recently purchased for ego-massage, or was it investment purposes?
There is no doubt presenting the risman collection was no feather in anyones cap, in fact it was more a lead ball and chain as the 46 lots on the block justly proved yesterday.
RK can state only risman is a fool to have believed the old next sucker adage would save him, and that Christies would be able to dredge up even less astute Turkmen rug collectors/buyers than he.
To say this was wishful thinking might be putting it too mildly. Same goes for Christies carpet department dopey decision to think such a bunch of risman-hype and lebabble would pull paddle waving buyers into their august King Street auction chamber.
OK, enough about erik the turko-dumbell risman and his collection of 19th century rich mans turko-mediocrities and lets take a quick survey of the surprises.
First off were the prices realized for some late 19th century Iranian furnishing carpets like lot 200, a silk Heriz that tipped the scales at $543,984!
Then lot 131, a 20th century Keshan with silk warp and an antique design sold, for a whopping $234,288.
And not to be outdone in far more ostentatious than a cautious display of wallet-bending was the $214,932 paid for a circa 1970 Meshed carpet signed by Saber??
Yesssshhhhh, this reminds RK of the outrageous amounts of lucre spent during the early 20th century for art by the nouveau millionaires to furnish their new plazzo and palaces.
Anyway, it seems carpet dealers with such goods in their stocks need not worry about turning a profit.
Now lets turn our eyes to several other surprises.
The first and foremost might be the $253,644 paid for a beautiful but severely worn vase carpet fragment, lot 103.
There is no question it came from a champion of the type, with a large and intricate strap-work main border and expressively articulated palmette and floral devices gracing the field.
But really now, $250 grand?
The market for classical carpets is, and has been for several years now, hotter than a solar flare and rightly so in many peoples eyes.
But for these same eager to own it buyers to completely ignore and miss the significance of equally as important and noteworthy non-classical weavings is, in RKs opinion, far from intelligent.
However, that said, it takes real intelligence to sort thru the myriad of later workshop, mediocre and airport-art examples to score the gems of this genre and clearly those buyers, and their experts, are sorely deficient in those departments.
Were they not, the fact these weavings are far more rare than their classical cousins would have already dawned on them.
Oh well, this situation does make buying opportunities for those who have the right stuff to know a masterpiece from a mediocrity.
RK must also mention how relatively easy it is to learn to distinguish a good classical carpet from a lesser one and how much more difficult it is to do this with non-classical, small-scale society, weavings.
Before we mention a few other lots that made some noteworthy prices we should mention the big winner of the risman collection. Of course, his big winner was not even a hair on the toe of the other big-ticket weavings Christie sold.
Lot 181 Ersari Wedding Trapping (Jollar)
Estimated at 12,000-18000 pounds, which was an absurdity, it sold for 9,000.
This was the highest price in the sale and arguably the pick of the almost still-born risman collection litter.
RK does not believe it is 18th century but compared with the rest of the risman consignment it might be in comparison.
Nor do we genuinely like it but again in comparison to the rest it was head and shoulders much easier to look at.
We could, just for drill, demonstrate how the interesting design is nothing but a pastiche of two far earlier Turkmen iconic torba the S group kejebe and _________.
Heres an quiz for all you turko-fans, try to figure out what other quite rare Turkmen weaving is the second.
Should any of you write in with your guesses we will be glad to congratulate the first person who gets it right, and should none of you succeed we will be as glad to tell where one of the few known examples is illustrated.
All in all it is impossible to put any positive spin on the risman smack-down; as it was not the economic times, nor the fickelness of Turkmen rug buyers that can be blamed.
Rather, the only guilty party is a stupid and greedy ego-centric collector who mistakenly believed his name and Christies would carry his boring pass rugs to a payday.
Now, a few other comments about the sale.
Our favorite, and a rug we would have bought were we buying Anatolian rugs that are newer than 16th was lot 217, the so-called in the catalog Bergama rug
We could mount an impressive argument why this rug is not a Bergama, as well as why we believe it older than the 18th century date the catalog also floated.
This rug was not a best of type but it is way, way up there with the second tier ones and, in fact, we like it better than any of those.
Compared to some of the other prices Christies knocked-down, the $34,250 an astute buyer paid is a bargain.
Congrats go to that paddle holder.
Now for the real super-nova results that were not as high dollar-wise as the others we mentioned but for what they are, like the vase fragment, RK has to say they hit the stratosphere.
First off was the so-called in the catalog felt backed kilim mat allegedly 360-260B.C. according to a C14 dating.
Lot 100, alleged Pazyryk-type slit-tapestry
The catalog went great length to name-drop, ad nauseum, the Pazyryk rug and Rudenkos (the discoverer) other tapestry finds in early Bronze age frozen tombs in Siberia.
This effort was all in vain as anyone who knows the difference between an allegation and a fact would instantly conclude after even a cursory perusal.
One quite telling comment concerned the C14 dating: both the central field and the border were sampled, and gave very close results.
Well, in RK's book science like that will get you a ride on the Staten Island Ferry as long as you pony up the fare.
Yeeesssshhhh, who could credit a C14 date when two samples of the same woven object gave dissimilar results, no matter how close.
C14 dating for carpets is a parlor game and until the contamination issue and the disparity of same sample datings, like those given by this weaving, are resolved RK will remain a disbeliever.
Oh, the felt backed kilim mat sold for.$301,473.
Thats a lot of moolah, in any currency, to pay for a weaving whose catalog description drops names galore but comes up frightfully short on anything positive, other than the C14 date, which is not positive at all.
Again, here we have a classical rug buyer who opened the Gucci alligator wallet for something that may down the line be reclassified as far newer and having nothing to do with anything Pazyryk.
Last but not least on RKs romp thru the Christie results was the $88,953 paid for two narrow strips of pile border allegedly, again according to the catalog, Ilkhanid.
This description is, likewise, pure innuendo, and the case the cataloguer tries to make is once more long on allegation and totally absent of any fact to support the Ilkhanid provenance.
RK could write many pages critiquing the allegations Christie forwards concerning lot 100 and lot 101.
These descriptions are nothing but pure sales-talk obviously aimed at buyers who do not know how to tell the difference between fact and fantasy.
But this has always been part and parcel of the oriental rug business, pulling the wool(pun intended) over the eyes of rich men who believe they are buying somethingimportant when in fact they are only buying someones story to pay the rent.
RK would welcome the opportunity to set the record straight but the wallets that sit in Christie and sothebys auction rooms would never listen to us.
Well lets just say they would rather have their illusions than the truth.
And we all know the truth hurts, now doesnt it, especially when it costs some hundreds of grand.
PS: Since most of rismans pieces will be shipped back to from whence they came he can still do a generous jim burns and donate them to his local museum.that is if they will even take them.
But thats another story.