Detail yellow rug; Konya Area; 17th century or earlier; RK Collection, New York
Probably one of the better, if not the best, recent sale was the Nagel auction, March 27, 2012.
The property included a number of Turkmen rugs from the collection of Werner Logis, whose name should be familiar to any collector who has ever bought a Turkmen rug. Logis authored one of the early books on these weavings and he, unlike most, was really a collector, and not a dealer or what RK likes to call an investor-collector.
Logis was extremely active in the German circle during the 1970's and 80's, a time that surely was a golden age of Turkmen rug collecting.
Then in the late 80's he dropped off the scene and was rarely seen or heard from again.
RK met him in the mid-70's and always enjoyed talking Turkmen rugs with him. We also sold him a few stellar pieces and, in fact, one of them was in the sale. We will be mentioning it later in this review of the sale.
The catalog was divided into several parts and we will discuss a just few of the items in the sale, as we are no longer motivated to spend our time analyzing rugs on the market, or the prices they bring. Frankly, we are completely bored with the scene and feel it is a waste of our time, or anyone else, to be intensely preoccupied with rugDUMB.
All that said, we still do have our personal collecting and research interests, as well as a modicum of interest in what is going on at auctions, exhibitions, meetings, etc.
As we just said, the Nagel sale had some better weavings on offer and compared to the bargain-basement type of sale recently held by rippon boswell there is absolutely no comparison. Granted boswell is going to hold a more inportant spring sale in May and we are sure some better pieces were siphoned off into that venue.
OK, enough palaver, now to the meat of the matter some RK comments about a few of the lots we feel deserve them.
The first is lot, number 14, called a double niche rug with rare border ornament which sold for a generous but not really high price of 70,000 euro against an estimate of 20,000.
Called Ushak area, west Anatolian, a provenance we tend to often see for rugs of this type, RK would rather place farther west and south into Melas region.
Regardless of where it was actually made, this rug is not really a 'village rug' nor is it 17th century, as the catalog tries to advance.
While it is a pretty rug, as walter denny once publicly described the dennis dodds/LACMA bogus Bellini that is a weaving the Nagel rug bears some not coincidental similarities with, it is surely not historic, evocative or genuinely interesting. We'd date it circa 1750.
It is decorative, RK will gladly admit, and the price believe it or not was determined by this factor and not any other.
This rug is destined for the floor of some wealthy individual and most likely will be a dog or cat's napping place and not the highlight of any Turkish village rug collector's collection, at least none RK has even met.
We could spend several paragraphs proving how formulaic and rote this rug is by comparing its features to other examples which are 17th century and genuine village production. Sorry but diminished interest in proving our opinions is the reason we won't but we will demonstrate, for all you Turkish Village rug fans, a comparison of one amulet this rug, and another that is 17th century, both portray.
Left: Detail lot 14; Right: Detail Konya yellow rug, 17th century or earlier, RK Collection, New York
There is little comparison here, although both details display exactly the same elements, treated in almost exactly the same manner. The differences, and there is a difference, can not be only be attributed to the skill of the weaver, though definitely this is a contributing factor.
The larger factor, and the reason for the differences, is the connection the weaver of our rug had to the historic roots of the amulet, an undeniable advantage enabling the creation of art and not just the reproduction of a design.
Something that separates the men from the boys, so to speak. It is also the difference between a weaver capable of producing a masterpiece weaving and one who produced a weaving that is only good.
Here's a little hint to clue you into recognizing historic connection: Notice in the yellow rug detail the clear and present depiction of the paired bird or animal head icon, they are purple, in the horizontal panel of this cross-type amulet.
This is no accident or weaving aberration, it is a purposeful reminder showing the weaver knew, because of a viable connection to the historic roots of the weaving culture, to place it here in this iconic amulet.
This connection to the weaving 'culture', or tradition if you like, is a very estimable quality, one that a connoisseur eye instantly recognizes.
RK is sure had lot 14 been a masterpiece it would have sold for at least three or four times the price it brought.
Horses for courses, and we suggest readers do some work to find other masterpiece examples which display the same elements, field, spandrel and border, lot 14 apes, to see for themselves what RK means.
The next mentionable lot, number18, the knotted panel with two Kejebe gols, as the catalog so prosaically calls it, is a Turkmen weaving we know well, we sold it to Werner Logis in 1985.
It came from a old time rug dealer's grandson we made acquaintances with in California and, soon after we bought it, we showed it to Werner. He was smart enough to purchase it without any hesitation.
There is more the story and we have already spilled some of the beans here on RugKazbah.com and do not feel the necessity to revisit and tell the entire unexpurgated tale.
We would like to mention that Logis, though someone who studied Turkmen rugs with good results, was also someone who, at least with RK, always asked our advice and was not so egotistical or pompous as to not defer to our point of view.
We remember well our discussion about this rare Salor weaving, which centered on the fact it was not S group, ie asymmetric open left, but rather open right.
And while we do not feel it is relevant to say how much Logis paid in 1985 we will mention it was quite a pretty penny.
Did he do well? Yes he did, as it sold for 40,000 euro!
Had it been open left, and S group, RK is sure it would have brought at least twice that price and more....but then again had it been open left Werner would have had to pay twice the price back in 1985 to get it. Although we doubt we would have sold it as we were collecting "S" group pieces with some passion at that point in time and only sold it because it was open right.
Lot 22, also from the Logis Collection is a rare bird Tekke trapping and it did fairly well selling for 7,500 euro.
There is a far better example published and also illustrated here on RugKazbah.com and we show it again for comparison.
Tekke large format torba, munkacsi collection
Memling gol torba are few and though this one is, compared to the one above, only a good example, the price it brought at Nagel's is very, very reasonable and the new owner should be pleased as punch to both have it and not at a wallet-busting price.
Were RK still buying for resale we can guarantee the price would have been at least double, for that's where we put it as a dealer's price. Naturally the retail price, or collector price, would be at least 20 percent higher.
The Chodor engsi fragment, lot 30, kicked up a whole hill of rugDUMB dust gossip prior to the sale, but RK knew it would not be a high flyer. And although Chodor engsi of its age, circa late 18th century, are rare items, this one was not as well executed as some others of the type we know and have owned.
Then, of course, completely missing the left side and the various rents, holes and abrasions also held it back from kiting into the clouds.
It is a worthy example, but in today's highly partitioned Turkmen rug market, where the fat wallets severely outnumber those with more moderate means to blow at auction, there are few takers and not much competition for such items.
And we should mention most of these fat wallets are now not afraid to purchase damaged Turkmen rugs, and rents, holes and abrasion are now not considered to be no-buy criteria.
But when the complete left side, right side, top or bottom is gone it takes the visual presence, as well as the desire of such buyers, along with it. This was the case here and it sold for a give-away 3600 euro.
The few Ersari and Beshir chuval and torba, lots 31-35, which we are not going to bother to illustrate, and suggest readers see the online catalog at the Nagel website, did rather poorly.
They were not champions but they were very worthy weavings.
Were there a large contingent of Turkmen collectors, which there surely are not, such pieces would have sold for at least double and more what they brought at Nagel. However, as we just said the Turkmen rug collecting universe is highly partitioned and unless an example is a best of type, close to it, or in pristine condition, there are no takers, as this sale of Logis collection pieces proved.
A decade and more ago, when for instance the jon thompson sale, and then the robert pinner sale, took place there were more buyers for such goods. There is little doubt by waiting Logis missed his chance to cash in.
The world-wide economic downturn is also a factor to consider, however, RK believes over the ensuing time period most collectors have learned their lessons and now know quite a bit more about Turkmen rugs. The result being their ardor to acquire less than stellar examples has greatly diminished.
One other surprise in the eastern Turkmen pieces from the Logis collection was lot 41, a stately and very rare example of a Beshir group main carpet(MC).
This is a really rare MC the cataloguer missed the boat on entirely by calling it Ersari and worse 3rd quarter 19th century.
Foolish underdating is all we can say, and whoever actually made this error needs to do some quick remedial study or forget about trying to date a Turkmen weaving.
Granted this MC is in far from pristine condition, but for a carpet of its age and rarity, more about this in a second, its problems are nothing to keep a knowledgeable buyer from waving his paddle high and hard.
The problem why it did not sell is not its state of preservation, or the dumb dating its the lack of really knowledgeable collectors.
By the way RK would date this carpet um 1800 conservatively, and it most probably is 50 years or more older.
There are a number of exceptional elements this MC displays, like the seldom seen tripling of the main border, the incredibly rare octagonal minor gol, and the equally as rare tertiary elements. This is not a MC to sneeze at, but apparently everyone was out in the cold, sat on their paddles, and missed it flat out.
Also the reality bags are far more in vogue these days than MC's, and have been since RK published our Tent Band Tent Bag book in 1989 which can be easily seen as the impetus that started this ball rolling in Turkmen rug collecting, was in play here as well.
Not that bags and trappings were not pursued prior to our publication, they surely were. But Tent Band Tent Bag pushed the envelope open far wider than it had ever been, and today's crop of collectors is far more actively after them than MC.
Let's all remember prior to 1989 MC were considered more valuable than a bag or trapping, that surely is not the case presently.
And the catalog's 2500 euro guesstimate was low enough to be a bargain and still there were no takers.
We advise Logis not to sell it post-sale, especially not for 2,500 euro or less, and to be pleased it did not sell for a song. It deserves better and we hope he realizes this and keeps it.
But main carpetitis did not keep the next lot, 42 the S group MC, from finding a number of competing buyers and the low estimate, 12,000 euro, was eclipsed by three fold and more.
It sold for 40,000 euro, which can be seen as a very reasonable price all things considered.
S group MC have been popping up at auction and in dealers hands for the past ten years or so with some great regularity, and these workshop carpets, which RK has never fancied, hold big sway to no end over those fat wallet Turkmen collectors.
RK remembers the day well, it was in 1976 or '77 at Christie's King Street in London, when the first S group carpet anyone had ever seen and recognized came up in a major London saleroom. It was called Ersari and carried an estimate of 50-80 pounds.
It's an interesting story, especially since we were involved and actually purchased it in the sale. We have already recounted a good part of it here on RugKazbah.com and again feel no need to do so again, saving it and other juicy tales for our promised autobiography.
Here's one for 'ya: We would much rather own lot 41 than 42, and except for the fact the latter is far more 'valuable' in today's marketplace there is not one other virtue or aspect of 41 that is even close to superior.
That's about it for us, as the rest of the sale had nothing that really caught our eye, although there were a few mentionables.
Lot 50, a fragment of an early Kurdish long and broad carpet carried too high an estimate, for after all it was not nearly a best of type and we are sure had the owner consigned it with a 1,000-1,500 estimate it would have sold well, but surely not for the 10,000 euro estimate in the catalog. Wishful thinking at best, and it was foolish as the result proved.
The Borjalu-type Karachopf design Kazak, lot 78, was an good-looker, definitely old enough, and it sold for 6,500 against a well thought out estimate of 3,500 euro.
Again not nearly a best of type but a good strong example suitable for a collector or a high end decorative use.
Lot 88, a rare type of citified Kazak, and surely not a Genje as was the cataloger's guess, had a very rare and interesting design, the catalog called a sumak design.
And while true, it does resemble the gol-type element seen on a rare group of sumak, here the emblems within the gol were more derived from dragon rugs than any sumak of the group we have ever seen.
Again, there were condition issues, but in general the rug shows extremely well and the fact it did not sell, even with a paltry 1800 euro estimate, shows how undereducated today's diminishing breed Caucasian rug collectors truly are.
This was a rare rug, in a great collector size, that deserved to have been scooped up..tsk tsk on all you so-called Caucasian rug collectors, go after it post-sale if you have any brains.
We saw nothing more worth our comments other than the fact a slew of just better than airport-art, mostly Turkmen and Caucasian, rugs sold for cheap, cheap prices. There is absolutely no doubt 10 or 20 years ago these same weavings would have elicited active dealer interest and prices in multiples of what they made at Nagel this week.
But, Ahhh, how things have changed and the deflation saga all things collectible are experiencing has killed off chances for dealers to profit as in former times.
And, let's face facts, this trend has been exacerbated in rugDUMB thanks to the reality no new collectors, or hardly any really, are getting involved.
RK has already given the reason, and to drive the head of that nail closer to the board we will say it again: The inabilities of those who run rugDUMB, the high honchos at the icoc, that rag hali and those high profile dealer's who spend their time scheming how to milk and bilk their customers, are just too full of themselves, too inexpert at knowing what real historic weaving is all about, and too used to sitting on their butts instead of getting out there and making things like Museum exhibitions and good press, to attract new blood.
And let's be honest here, any collecting area that allows a liar and cheat like dennis the crook dodds to remain in a position of authority will never, ever, be able to get intelligent and inquisitive people interested in participating.
We have said this over and over, and until things change RugDumb will continue to wallow in the mire of disinterest and continue its ever increasing downward spiral. The sale at Nagel AG proves our point in spades.