Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Letter to the Editor
Fri, Mar 23rd, 2012 04:42:14 PM
Topic: Letter to the Editor

Recently a "review" of the Anatolian Kelim Exhibition organized by and at the deYoung Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco appeared in an East Coast antiques paper.

Regrettably, there were a number of incorrect, naive, foolish and down right ridiculous statements contained therein which prompted RK to pen a letter to the editor.

We felt our longstanding interest, research and collecting effort in this area entitled us to do so, primarily to set the record straight.

Even more regrettable is the seemingly absurd fact every time we do something to set the record straight we end up in a shoot the messenger position (RK being the target) and find ourself demonized rather than applauded.

Regardless as RugKazbah.com readers know, RK is fearless and spurious shots aimed in our direction, like those we absorbed after outing the bogus "bellini" dennis, the cheat and liar, dodds pawned off and sold Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA) of Art, which is now stored in LACMA's sub-basement, can do little to harm our already grossly over distorted 'reputation'.

So, after sending our letter to the editor, a one mr smith, below, we soon discovered mr smith chose not to publish it but instead returned it to us with a somewhat derogatory email reply.

That reply is below as well.

RK then forwarded our letter to the editor, and his reply, to Jill D'Alessandro, the current curator of textiles at the deYoung. Her reply is also below.

After receiving D'Alessandro's email we then emailed her back, and that email is below as well.

After more than a week and not hearing from D'Alessandro, as to whether or not she had, in fact, contacted mr smith, we decided to make this exchange public here on RugKazbah.com as it seems obvious smith is not going to correct, in any way, the erroneous and stupid statements his staff writer included in the article.

Nor, at this point, does it seem likely D'Alessandro will do anything in this regard either.

While many in RugDumb might say RK should be thankful for the coverage given to Anatolian Kelim by smith's journal's review RK clearly feels this was completely overshadowed by the mis- and dis- information it contained.

As a closing note the same faulty logic was sent in our direction after our crusade to expose and remedy the travesty the bogus "bellini" sale to LACMA became public.

RK heard numerous comments from RugDUMB we should "be glad" a museum like LACMA bought a rug, and instead of dissing it we should be supporting it.

Well, dear readers, this logic is full of more hole than a hundred pounds of Switzerland swiss cheese but not nearly as tasty.

For who, but a duplicitous magpie, could possibly support an emperor's new clothes situation of calling a late genre period reproduction a museum worthy16th century masterpiece?

Let's all remember this is the crux of the dodds/LACMA bogus "bellini" rip-off and cover-up.

The jury is still out on mr smith publishing our letter or D'Alessandro making any efforts herself.

But RK is pretty sure neither will do anything and this is the main reason for our making this public now.


Letter to the editor re: Article about the deYoung Museum exhibition ofAnatolian Kelim

Dear Sir:

I read with interest your recent article reviewing the exhibition of Anatolian Kelims at the deYoung Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. As a long time researcher and collector of these fascinating and mysterious slit-woven tapestries your publication of the review, written by Regina Kolby, was a most welcome addition to both your coverage of museum shows, as well as the often overlooked importance and beauty of oriental rugs.

I must admit am not familiar with Ms Kolby, what her experience might be in this field or her credentials. Nor have I ever heard of her or read anything she has written and therefore I am somewhat puzzled by her choice to write such a review. This aside I wonder if the points my comments raise might be do to the fact Ms Kolby is not only a stranger to the field but someone who knows little to nothing about the weavings in the deYoung exhibition.

There are a number of incorrect and questionable statements in her review and they are the reason for my writing today so let me list the most important ones.

Starting in the first paragraph her statement "The intricately patterned slit-weave carpets stacked by yurts were used as 'furniture' until the late Eighteenth century ultimately reflected a family's status." is but a naive notion long held by westerners who have no real understanding of these weavings or their function. The examples in the deYoung exhibition are surely pre-19th century, and many much older, and because there is absolutely no contemporary ethnographic evidence of how they were used, or even why they were made, Kolby's statement is for all intents and purposes far from accurate.

The iconography displayed on such early kelim, like those in the deYoung's collection, is not in any way domestic or secular it is one of sacred symbols, expressing as yet unknown cultural belief and, as such, these weavings were surely not intended to be used as "furniture". Actually "furniture" might well best describe their use in the western world, particularly northern Europe, where many late 19th century examples ended up due to Victorian tastes for 'oriental' decorative accessories. Kolby's statement might also ring true in Turkey during this same period, 1870-1910, when this commercial demand for kelim weavings stimulated the establishment of many small, and even larger, workshops to supply weavings for such export demands. But in no way, shape, or form were early kelims, like most of those in the deYoung collection and exhibition, ever considered as, or used as, "furniture" by their makers.

Kolby is also incorrect to have classed H. McCoy Jones as one of the "tight but passionate group of (kelim) collectors" because Mr Jones never bought an Anatolian kelim prior to his 1985 death-bed purchase emass of the collection he donated to the deYoung, and from which the exhibition was exclusively drawn. Nor does this collection form the nucleus of the deYoung's collection. Rather, it is, in fact, the only source of the museum's holding. Jones was a pile rug collector, particularly those made in Turkmenistan, who never bought kelim, and Kolby's statement is highly misleading and completely incorrect.

As one of leaders of that tight and passionate group of kelim collectors I was privy to the exact circumstances of how Mr Jones and his wonderful wife Caroline came to purchase that collection and, while this is surely not germane to my wishing to set the record straight, it is mentioned both to validate my credentials in the field and to bonafide what is said in this letter.

Kolby then writes "The two dozen examples of kilims on view represent the weaving traditions practised in Persia from the Fifteenth to the Ninetenth Centuries". While she is probably correct in the dates, she is surely not in saying they represent the weaving traditions practised in Persia, as all the weavings on view are from Anatolia(Turkey) and have no roots, associations or relations what so ever to Persia.

Perhaps this is just a typo but, frankly, such an excuse appears as patently foolish one that cannot exonerate Kolby's inexperience and unsuitability to author such a review.

Likewise her statement "...early inscriptions on clay tablets indicate the weaving industry and textile business were well established in the area by the third millennuim BC" is blatant exaggeration and also, to my knowledge, not applicable to the small-scale weaving culture that produced Anatolian kelim. These societies were truly isolated and never part of the large-scale societies where such "industry" was practised.

Kolby's attempt to relate this quotation to the Anatolian kelim in the exhibition is completely incorrect and, again, highly misleading. So is referencing Firdowsi's Shahnameh when speaking of the Anatolian kelim culture and tradition. A far more correct way to document the ancient roots for the Anatolian kelim tradition would be to cite the bronze age archaeological evidence of the use of spindle-whorls to spin animal fibers.

Also Kolby keeps mentioning "fragments", whereas many of the kelim on view, and in the Jones/deYoung collection, are complete or virtually complete examples, as several shown in the color illustrations accompanying her review demonstrate. She is also incorrect in saying Caroline Jones collected these "fragments" after her husband's death, as the collection was purchased in toto before he died and Caroline did not buy any kelim thereafter.

So, too, is D'Allessandro's quote "The natural dye, in a lot of ways, defines the art of Anatolian kilims". Fact is multitudes of other weavings made in Anatolia, and other areas of the Near East, have natural dyes of equal exemplary quality. Anatolian kelim would be far more correctly defined by their iconography, not their colors. By the way, d'Alessandro, a recent curatorial appointment to the deYoung's textile department, had no former association, whether professional, academic or personal, with Anatolian kelim, let alone oriental rugs, before being hired.

It is likewise rather remarkable the NewTown Bee's illustration of a kilim from the exhibition cited as having "...two birds facing one another. (and) An elibelinde (female icon)..." in the negative space between them, and not an Ottoman carnation, was illustrated upside down. Again is this just a mistake or does it show the reviewer's lack of knowledge and expertise in this field?

Kolby projects other naive, outdated and suspect "western" ideas about Near Eastern weavers by stating "Their creativity was proscribed by a small repertoire of designs; their technical skills limited to repeating the same designs over and over." Actually, the weavers of the earliest kelim were prohibited from creativity, their cultural tradition demanding the exact and faithful rendering of the iconography in a proscribed form. Such kelim are cultural object and not an individual's "artistic" product in any sense of the word. This is a basic tenet of the Anatolian kelim weaving culture and to miss this point is to miss the target completely.

As incorrect and misleading is Kolby saying "The slits are beloved by collectors as it is there that the sharp-etched designs emphasize the geometry of the weave. Other techniques produce a more blurred design image." Actually the clarity of design in a kelim, ie slit-tapestry; a sumak, another flat weave technique; or a pile-carpet depends upon the fineness of the materials and its weave and this is surely something not only a slit-weave kelim can produce.

I could easily go on correcting Kolby's assertions and statements, both about the kelim in exhibition and McCoy and Caroline Jones, but the above should be enough to document and support my position.

History has been unkind to the Anatolian kelim, it has removed any evidence of the original intention and impetus of their creation. It is definitely no exaggeration to say they are a mystery. However, to try and explain that mystery with unsupportable references, incorrect and outmoded ideas conjured up by westerners unfamiliar with this genre of Near Eastern weaving, or fanciful association the weavings themselves do not in any way project, muddies the water obfuscating any opportunity to truly understand them.

As the founder of the Weaving Art Museum -- http://weavingartmuseum.org and someone who owns a collection of early Anatolian kelim rivaling the deYoung's I can only suggest interested readers of Kolby's review, or anyone who has become interested in Anatolian kelim, seek out other authors and publications on the subject.

There is little doubt early Anatolian kelim are immensely beautiful and evocative artworks.

Perhaps one day the mystery surrounding them will be lifted enough to glimpse answers to the many yet unanswered questions they provoke. But until then trying to explain them, and their place in textile history, does not need, or suggest, suspect and completely non-factual ideas, like those expressed in Kolby's review.

Jack Cassin


Weaving Art Museum


Mr. Cassin

Thank you for your communication.

Antiques and The Arts Weekly has chosen not to publish the letter you submitted pertaining to our article on the deYoung Museum's exhibition of Anatolian Kelim.

Antiques and The Arts Weekly strives to promote museum exhibitions, we do not "review" exhibitions for the simple reason that we are not experts in the vast and diverse fields that we cover.

All of the information used in the article was provided to Regina Kolbe by the experts at the de Young Museum, including the "inverted" photograph that you mention.

Should you wish to resubmit your letter in 500 words or less, limit your conent to correcting inaccuracies that you feel appeared in the article, omit disparaging remarks about my writer and Ms. d'Alessandro, and sign the letter with your name address and phone number, I will again consider it for publication.

Thank You

David S. Smith Managing Editor Antiques and The Arts Weekly


Ms. D'Alessandro:

Recently an article, actually a "review" of the Kelim show you organized, appeared in an antiques trade paper.

The article, so I learned, was written by a staff writer of that journal who received, according to the editor, information from you.

I wrote a letter to the editor about the article and the numerous errors and frankly foolish statements it contained.

The editor declined to publish what I wrote claiming it was "too long" and contained an unflattering picture of the work his staff writer did.

Here is my letter for your edification, although quite frankly I do not believe you could ever be edified when it comes to understanding the intricacies of anatolian Kelim or, in fact, any other Near Eastern Weaving.

I am also enclosing the editors letter below the article.

The deYoung Museum has gone from bad to worse in its choice of "curators", from cathy flying penis cootner, to your do-nothing predecessor, and now to you.

Sad really, because Near Eastern weavings are such a wonderful area for both scholarship and public interest. Neither of which, ms D'Alessandro, have you even slightly been able to accomplish.

So good luck collecting your salary and continuing to lead the deYoung Museum to muddle through pretending Near Eastern weaving are an important part of its mission.

Truly a joke of huge proportions going on the track record so far and what the foreseeable future will likely hold.

And by the way, it would have been far more correct to title the show "Anatolian Kilims from the Caroline and McCoy Jones collection", as Caroline did far more than her lame and pompous husband for the subject.

Well, I guess, she was omitted because at the end of her life Caroline had seen though the bullshit the deYoung shoveled in her way and "retired" from the rug world.

At least that is what she told me the last few times we spoke, and one of those times was several days before she died.

Bless her soul Caroline was a national treasure and I am truly grateful for the time we spent together, regardless of the fact ms cootner tried in every which way to keep us apart.

Jack Cassin


Dear Jack,

I will not take responsibility for a series of misquotes by a writer ofthe Newtown Bee. In fact, almost every point you make was not stated orwritten by me.

Thank you for your concern regarding the Textile Arts Department.

With best regards,



Hello Jill:

first thank you for your reply

please realize i have nothing against youbut your abject disinterest in whati can do to enrich and help the deyoungto fulfill the mission with weavings it talks about isnot only distressing, it is absolutely foolhardy and ridiculous

i forgot more about the subject than alberto levi ,whois a friend of mine, jim dixon, who used to be, peter polluda, arug neophyte and bigmouth, or anyof the other poseurs you have turned to for helpand advice

under these conditions what else would you expect fromme---the critiques of you i have spoken of privately andpublicly are valid...you need help and i offered it butwas rejected....simple equation...

as for the Newton bee, i suggest, in fact implore,you to contact smith, the editor, and set the record straight

you are more than welcome to use what i write, just credit me ifyou do

i would very much like to work with you and the deyoung, sowhy dontcha set that in motion

i am an easy guy to get along with, i just do not suffer foolsand less than honest people well


Author: jc
Fri, Mar 23rd, 2012 04:42:14 PM

Well, well, seems mr smith of the antiques newspaper contacted Jill d'Alessandro of the deYoung museum after we emailed him concerning the error he made in claiming the deYoung, and not his newspaper's reporter, was to blame for the many mistakes the review contained.

As we wrote to smith, d'Alessandro claimed she was not responsible and any blame for the errors rest with smith's reporter.

This weeks edition of the paper included this "clarification":

Frankly, we find smith's calling it a clarification, instead of an admission of error, typical for a small-minded editor of a far from well-known journal.

Errr, hello mr smith: "Big people make mistakes but little people are always right."

And while d'Alessandro's 'clarifications' are surely better than what she is clarifying, they still leave us wondering where on earth she is learning about the Anatolian Kelim?

Stacked at the sides of yurts?

Please now, Jill, we are not talking about hay stacks -- remember even in the late 19th century a tremendous amount of effort and expense had to be garnered to make a Kelim, and no one in their right mind stacked them up besides any yurt.

And for what purpose might we ask were they "stacked up"?

In fact, most of the Kelim, whether 19th century or older were probably made in villages, not nomadic encampments.

And while the idea, d'Alessandro has in her mind of 'stacks of kelim' besides 'yurts' might play well to naive lay-persons on a docent led tour of the exhibition, RK needs to remind d'Alessandro there are many people who know something about the subject and she had better get going on learning something besides nonsensical patter.

We could go on but why bother when a pin-head like smith, or a head in the sand museum curator like d'Alessandro ignore someone of RK's stature, refusing to even publicly mention the fact we are the sole reason any 'clarification' was printed.

By the way, we have not heard from either of them privately and tho we could care less we feel we must mention this for the record.

Common courtesy would demand both of them contact RK but since they both appear to be intimidated by us, and in fact have proven themselves to be, guess that entitles them to act in a discourteous manner.

Best of luck to them both...

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