Home > BULLETIN >Rug Gifts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sat, Mar 17th, 2012 11:52:22 AM
Topic: Rug Gifts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Recently RK learned the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has received several rugs as gifts from two collectors, actually man and woman who were not married but lived together for more than 40 years.

RK first met gilbert dumas and hillary black in the early 1970's on one of our initial rug hunting trips out to California. At that time San Francisco was the hot-bed of rug interest in America, and dumas and black were, along with Murry and emmet eiland, Louis, aka Lou, Georgi, pamela and Don Wheeler, Christopher Alexander and others RK could name, among those collectors and dealers RK became acquainted with.

This is not the time and place to reminisce about the 'good old days', and trust us they really were, so please forgive RK's disinterest in describing exactly how we met dumas and black, as well as the others we mentioned.

We must, though, put in a word or two of respect to honor one of the forgotten, but surely not by us, Bay Area rug aficionando Lou Georgi. Lou had a small shop on the north-western edges of Berkeley where RK spent many many enjoyable hours talking rug. Lou was an affable, friendly, open dealer, unlike most of the others RK met during these early days. He had no axe to grind, sincerely liked, loved and respected antique rugs and was, in all senses of the word, a pleasure to deal with and to know.

But we digress, so let's get back to gifts to the Met.

Several years ago gilbert dumas died, and unbeknownst to RK hillary black, his longtime partner, donated several pieces to the Met.

For many years after meeting them, dumas and black, RK had a tenuous and rather uncomfortable acquaintanceship with them, as we both were collectors interested in acquiring early rugs and textiles.

At this point in RK's collecting career, we had been at rug collecting only for a few years, did not have much money and, since dumas and black were a decade and a half or so older than us and had gotten interested in oriental rugs way before we did, we definitely took second place.

Also hillary black had in the early 1960's inherited a sizable amount of money from her family, and with this somewhat unlimited amount of financial backing they had the means to buy what ever they wanted.

During this period, the early 1970's, besides going to California RK made the first trips to London, Paris and Germany to hunt historic rugs.

And Paris being our favorite haunt, and that of dumas and black as well, we often ran into them at the auction house, known as the Hotel Drouot, and on Rue Trevise, which was a street nearby the Drouot where a number of oriental rugs dealers used to have their shops.

RK can honestly say were never really were 'friends', or even close acquaintances, with dumas and black as they were, like many of the dealers and collectors we have met on the oriental rug trail, paranoid, possessive and generally too uptight to express any modicum of what the word friendship implies.

There was another factor inhibiting any real 'relationship' with dumas and black -- they sometimes sold pieces from their collection and never, not once mind you, did they ever offer RK anything.

And while we did purchase several Kashmir shawls from them, at one point circa 1980, the deal only came about because we relentlessly pursued trying to buy them when we heard thru the grapevine they were considering selling them and then offered far more than what they were worth at the time.

Also over the ensuing years our knowledge and expertise soon equalled and then surpassed theirs, which was we believe another obstacle to our ever really becoming friends with them.

To say they were paranoid and jealous of us is something we are sure were dumas alive, or black questioned today, they would both deny.

But regardless of knowing exactly to what degree that paranoia and jealousy was, to deny it existed would be absolutely and patently untrue.

But we digress further...

So far RK has learned of three rugs hillary black donated to the Met and we are only illustrating one, and relating this bit of RK rug history, because we have a personal attachment to it.

Western Anatolian knotted pile rug fragment, circa 1700

If you look carefully you can see how the rug above was cut right down the center and rejoined with perhaps an inch or two removed. This was probably done at some point so it could be used as a sedjadeh, which in Turkish describes a pile rug either made in two pieces, or purposely cut in half, to be used as a 'couch' cover.

This is most probably the explanation as to why it was cut, for the rug has good pile and wear was not likely the reason.

RK first saw this rug on a road trip we made from San Francisco to Vancouver, Canada sometime around 1980. It was in the safe of a very nice and friendly Armenian rug dealer in Portland, Oregon known as Atiyeh Brothers.

We can not remember the name of the genuinely kindly old man who was, at the time, the owner of the shop but we visited with him several times on our North-west coast rug hunting jaunts and remember him, and his kindly manner, very well.

After we got to know him better he eventually showed us the contents of the large safe in the back of the store, where he stashed rugs and textiles he had inherited from his father and grandfather, we believe, who had run the shop before him.

We saw and liked mucho this western Anatolian "star" Oushak variant and were working on him to sell it to us.

Like all those who own rugs, but do not really know what they are or what they are worth, he was rather hesitant to make a price and finally did shoot one at us. It was 7500 dollars, which at the time was alot of money but today, 30 years or so later, might be considered a bargain.

We countered his offer with a 3,500 dollar one and he said he would think about it.

His serious listening to our offer meant to us if we offered something more we could get it, and we told him we'd call in a few weeks to talk about it again.

After saying our goodbyes we left, and since we were on our way south, and back to the Bay Area, we figured we could always come back up to Portland and get it if we could successfully make the deal.

And if not it would be there, lying in his safe for us, where it had been as he told us for at least 60 years.

When we got back to San Francisco we confidentially, and foolishly, mentioned we had seen the rug and were going to buy it sooner or later to garry muse.

Actually we should say stupidly because muse then zipped up to Portland, walked into the Atiyeh Brothers store, and bought it for 4,000 dollars, immediately selling it to dumas and black for we believe 6,500.

They say all is fair in love and war, however, this is but rationalization. And when, might RK ask, is rug collecting/dealing synonymous with these states of human endeavor?

OK, we should have known better than to tell a greedy and rather simpleton dullard, like muse, about the rug. But honestly we were then, and have always been, interested in sharing our rug collection, research and collecting efforts with others, including a long list of those, who like muse, have used our desire for camaraderie for their own self-interests and advantage, of course, against us.

Perhaps a better aphorism would be there is no honor among thieves, and many if not most of the 'names' in rugdumb, like muse, are really in the end no better than common thieves and pickpockets.

By the way we still have the original polaroid photo of the star-variant rug in our rug photo collection but unfortunately it has not been digitized and we only have a file of the digitized ones with us at the moment.

And speaking of garry muse and his propensity and inclination to double-cross and back-stab, several years later we have an even better story with him. However, that will not be recounted and you all will have to wait until our promised autobiography is published to read that one.

So while we congratulate hillary black for her gifts to the Met, we might like to add since she is quite wealthy and has had such a long time and singular interest in oriental rugs in her life, why doesn't she really do something to advance rug studies?

Something like funding indepth forensic research to build the necessary data bases oriental rug studies desperately need...

PS: And let's all remember the donations, she and others make, are in the end done for 'tax' purposes, no matter how pious the donor's supposed reasons are voiced.

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