Home > Auctions worldwide >Passing the Torch
Or Just Pissing on it?
Author:jc
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Tue, May 3rd, 2011 07:56:32 AM
Topic: Passing the Torch
Or Just Pissing on it?

Words are cheap, actions are dear.

You can quote RK on this, as we have not only said it innumerable times -- we act it.

Passing the Torch or just pissing on it?

We are using the aphorism passing the torch to refer to the older generation giving to the up and coming one.

In oriental carpet studies and collecting there is no up and coming one and not even a hint of one soon to be.

This is a regrettable situation, one we have been aware of for a long time, one we have talked about both publicly and privately, and most importantly one we have tried to remedy by writing books, as well as on the internet, and naturally by making our collection accessible to those who make an effort to contact us.

Were many others in the field like us, we are sure this lack of an up and coming generation of rug collectors would not be the dearth which now presents itself.

Rug meetings are full of grey hair, most of the rug dealers are old enough for social security and little if any new blood is circulating.

The upcoming Sotheby New York spring auction features a number of pieces from theJoseph Fell and berjd(i) andonian collections.

We put marks around collections because both of these old-time ruggies were dealers and not in any real sense of the word collectors.

At least none in our book or dictionary unless you consider a speculator a collector. And as far as we are concerned both Fell and andonian's "collections" are, and always were, pieces they held back waiting for their prices to go up, aka speculating and not collecting.

We say this because real collectors dont sell their pieces unless they NEED the money, and if readers dont already know let RK inform you neither Fell nor andonian NEEDS the money.

They are selling for other reasons, not the least of which is they feel the rug-market, God we hate that word, is topping out and its time for them to cashout. Hence the speculator moniker, as real collectors don't sell their collections because of any perceived market decline.

Sure, sure, we also readily admit, someone who is a dealer could also be a collector but that situation is decidedly not in case in these two instances.

And typical for rugDUMB neither Fell nor andonian has done a bloominthing to pass any kind of torch and fact is both of them, and their selling their collections at sothebys, stimulated us to contrive the pissing on, rather than, passing the torchidiom.

Its a clever one if we do say so ourselves and feel free to use it just be sure to quote us when you do.

RK met Joe Fell a couple of times decades ago but only en passant and never we spoke to him at length.

But somewhat recently, about 2 years ago, we did, out of the blue, call him and have several quite long conversations with him.

During them RK inquired if he wanted to sell any of the Turkmen pieces we knew, and have also heard, are his.

He said NO and frankly acted insulted and high and mighty we even bothered to inquire.

Among other things he said, and we quote I am leaving everything to the Textile Museum (in DC)

When we inquired why, Fell responded with a sheet of reasons, among them his longtime involvement, admiration and respect for that atrophied, and each day becoming more irrelevant to oriental carpet studies, mausoleum on S Street NW.

Well, lo and behold, guess what?

Seems, old Joe, decided a hopeful pocket of filthy lucre is far more important than honoring Myers now almost neutered desire to establish and fund a significant place for oriental carpet studies in America.

RK has no doubt Fell will leave other pieces to them but having an auction does appear to us to fly in the face of his so self-righteous and solemn replies to our asking about his selling us something.

Before we mention a bit about a few of Fells offerings, or those of his sale-mate mr andonian, wed like to relate a little story someone told us several years ago.

And please note, that person is not someone to spin yarns, exaggerate or lie we know him for decades and have never directly or indirectly heard anything to the contrary.

Seems 30 years or so ago, our acquaintance wanted to visit Fells shoppe but when he arrived it was closed.

So he called Fell up and said he wanted to visit and see if there was something he could buy.

Fell told him, and we quote Well, I will only come down and open the shop if you give me 35 dollars before I open the door.

Nice customer relations, huh? And mind you this was long enough ago to be when 35 dollars could buy an antique collector rug in good condition.

But this is typical of those old school Armenian dealers whose shoppes RK used to visit way back when

And by the way, we are sure Fell is Armenian and a man rich enough then not to need the 35 dollars he wanted to open the door of his shoppe to a paying customer.

Nor does he need the proceeds from sotheby now.

Nuff about Fell, and while we just said we were going to comment on a few of his offerings we just decided not to waste our time, as they, except one which we will mention, interest us about as much as an ant-covered corndog.

It is also the best and most important piece in the sale.

lot 134, so-called multi-gol main carpet, also pictured at the top of this page

Multi-gol MCs are rare indeed and, even though the soon to be ex-Fell collection example sothebys is offering is surely not one of the best of the types, it is an excellent example any collector should be proud to own.

We are not going to dissect the obvious reasons for our statement and trust interested ruggies will compare it to the one that is hands down the best of the genre. It is illustrated in a hali article and now resides in the deYoung Museum thanks to George Heckshers gifting.

By the way, RK knows this carpet very well, as we have had the opportunity to handle and study it a number of times before it ended up in San Franciscos relatively new bronze temple in Golden Gate Park.

As for mr andonian?

Well, lets just say RK used to be very close with him, bought a few great pieces from him and did a number of partnership deals as well.

RK stopped talking and participating in anything other than turning our back on him and heading in the other direction about 20 years ago after andonian lied and cheated us for the third time on one of those partnerships.

We told a story about Fell so here is one about andonian, who like many in rugDUMB does not really know a masterpiece from a good example when he finds it.

When we first met him, sometime in the very early 1970s, he was an eyeglass salesman who traveled the mid-west and lived in Queens, NY.

We met him in our old friend Berge Abadjians old place in the buildings at 245 5th Ave.

Abadjian told us he was teaching andonian about rugs so that he could find some on his travels selling eyeglasses.

Seems mr andonian was a quick learner and soon started holding back pieces he bought, not telling Abadjian about them and, get this, offering them to customers of Abadjian he met while in his shop.

When Abadjian learned of this he pushed andonian out of the door -- once a cheat, always a cheat.

Anyway, andonians collection might be best described by something RK once was told by an art-dealer acquaintance: A dealers collection is usually nothing but the pieces he cant sell.

This can be interpreted many ways and in andonians case we are not implying he cant sell them, of course he could, but obviously he believes he cant sell them for what he thinks they are worth.

He needs Sotheby to do that for him, otherwise he would do it himself, or at least try.

We have also heard thru the grapevine andonian has other, supposedly better and more important pieces, and is offering them privately.

Frankly, we could care less, as what andonian buys, and almost always bought, rarely interested us remember RK collects archetypes and not the cutesy, good condition textbook 19th century types of rugs that bear his collections provenance in the catalog.

By the way, the few pieces we did buy from andonian were ones he literally gave us for nothing. Not because he was generous but because he was not able to realize what they were, and charged accordingly.

We will soon discuss a few of the lots in the sale with our usual candor and demonstrated ability to differentiate the best from the rest.

But before we go today we want to make clear the quality on offer in this sale at sothebys is genuinely above the other auctions they and others have had lately.

But as RK also often quips: Never measure yourself by what is below you, always do so by comparing yourself to what is above.

Til then, stay tuned

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