Yesterday we wrote a few of our initial impressions from the results of sotheby's Rugs from Distinguished Collections sale, and after some further consideration we add the following.
Readers know RK did not candle to thoughts the 17 Azerbaijani would be highly desirable, read high priced, lots in the sale, or that they would lead the charge to a very successful one.
The market has spoken and proved RK wrong.
Well, not entirely but enough for us to admit it.
About other pieces we were far more correct in our prognostications and overall much more on the money.
About lots 1 and 2, which sold for $112,500 and 87,500 respectively, we wrote Though we have not seen them in person, and only carefully examined the multi-megabyte jpegs on the sotheby website, we are positive they are the best of the Chesrow collection couch-stitch ones.
We also wrote Will these high dollar embroidery lots sell? Our guess is perhaps number 1 and number 2, but the others carrying high estimates, like Lot 6 60,000-80,000usd, Lot 11 60,000-80,000usd and Lot 13 the curiously attributed Azerbijan prayer textile 80,000-120,000 have, in our view, little to no chance of finding buyers at those price levels.
We got it about 75% correct. Lots 1 and 2 did return the highest prices of the 17, and lots 6, 11 and 13 did not nearly as well, especially lot 13 a dud of a needlework if we ever saw one.
About lot 4, unsold in the sale, we wrote It is also way overestimated and wed bet it will only sell for less than half of the catalogs low estimate, if it sells at all.
So we hit that one 100% right.
Here is what we said about lot 5, which sold for $21,250 against a 20,000- 30,000 catalog estimate.
The lackadaisical border iconography and flaccid drawing throughout are also unmistakable signs this is the case. It also is in our opinion over-estimated and chances it sells much above the low estimate are not very probable.
Again we hit that one 100% right, too.
Our comments about Lot 6 included It is in no way worth the absurdly high estimate and we sincerely doubt it will sell for more than 25,000usd if it sells at all.
We got that half right as it only sold for $46,875 against a $60,000 $80,000 estimate.
**Please note all the selling prices are plus premiums, about 25% higher than the actual hammer prices. The estimates did not include premium. This drives the selling prices down to much closer to our numbers.
Lots 7 and 8 carried no price/selling predictions from RK; but about lot 9, which sold above estimate for $35,000 or just below the 30,000-40,000 dollar estimate without premium added, we wrote Here again it carries an estimate with little, or should we say no, reasonable support; one we doubt will be achieved on sale day.
We missed there and were 100% wrong.
Lot 10 was one we held to the fire of truth, at least truth in our opinion, but it did sell over estimate for $31,250. However, we are still not any more impressed with its boring Christian Armenian derivative iconography and complete lack of anything but vague connection to the historic roots of this tradition.
About lot 11 that sold for $53,125, well under -- minus premium -- the 60,000 to 80,000 dollar estimate, we wrote It is another embroidery with a median estimate we see absolutely no chance will be reached under the hammer.
There we scored another direct hit and were 100% correct.
Continuing, we also wrote Of the remaining, lots 12, 14,15 and 17, are not worth our time to even briefly discuss and all but one carry estimates we doubt will show anything but optimistic when the hammer falls.
And, looking at the results, they are a jump ball meaning RK was about 50 percent correct with our predictions.
Lot 16, perhaps our favorite of the Chesrow embroideries, did as we expected and it preformed above estimate($15,000-20,000), selling for $26,250 even with subtracting the 25% premium.
Last words about the embroideries belong to the horribly misattributed prayer embroidery lot 13 estimated for a whopping 80,000 120,000 dollars that sold for $59,375.
Here is what we wrote about it: And regardless of where lot 13 was made it has none of the intrigue, mystery and historic connections embroidery in that price range should command. But, RK well knows, there are those who might think it is cute, or compared to a horrible painting that costs 10x or 100x it could appear cheap.
This is exactly this type of buyer sotheby is obviously fishing for. Will they hook Charley the Tuna?
Dont be surprised if they do we all know the Studio 54 ploy. Put a rope in front (ie in this case an absurdly high estimate) and someone will want to get it (ie in this case open the wallet and buy it).
Seems sotheby did not land Charley but they did get more than a minnow, and someone is now the proud possessor after draining $59,375 from their wallet.
RK will be glad to bet at long odds the next time it hits the auction block it will not see anything but a price reduction, forget about cost of living or inflationary concerns.
As for lot 56, our former single Eagle Kazak we wrote The 80,000-120,000usd estimate lot 56 carries is, compared to those for the embroideries and several other pieces in the sale, quite reasonable and we are sure it will perform well and probably exceed the high estimate.
We got that 100% right and the eagle did soar selling for way over estimate at $233,000.
In fact it was the best performing lot in the Fernandes consignment and one of the best in the entire sale.
Its a honey of a rug, a real trophy rug as we like to describe it.
It does, however, not reach the heights the far earlier dragon rugs with similar eagle medallions and other bits of its iconography.
This was the main reason we sold it to Ebberhard Hermann about a year after we purchased it.
Perhaps someday we will do a paper about those medallions and why lot 56s rendition is not as brilliant or evocative as the earlier groups.
None the less we were 100% correct again with our prediction.
Speaking of trophies bidding, two or was it one bidder(s) got to carry home mini-trophy in the form of the two classical carpet fragments in the sale, lots 92 and 143, which sold for stratospheric prices -- $221,000 and $365,000 respectively.
Prices like those are guaranteed to cause instant buyers remorse in anyone who doesnt light their cigars with $10,000 bills.
But.on to more prosaic matters.
We have already explained our error in thinking lot 24 had once belonged to us; and since we made no prediction about how it would perform, tho we did express implied doubts it would do well (and it didnt just selling below the high estimate), we will go no further in discussing it.
We will state for the record how badly we misjudged the levels of Turkmen rug connoisseurship buyers at sotheby brought to the sale. Our prediction lot 61, one of three Tekke embroidered asmalyk, would sell the best were shattered by buyers who went instead for the cutesy little horses and human figures the other two displayed. No accounting for taste, especially the novice variety.
Congrats to the buyer of lot 61, you got a great example, one you will be proud of forever.
So with the Tekke asmalyk RK was 100% wrong. We misjudged the market's knowledge and expertise and were thrown completely off.
Lot 78, the former jon thompson collection S group LFT(large format torba) rode both the coat-tails of the thompson name, and its own abundant charms, to sell well over estimate at $93,750.
Again an excellent, early example for a genuinely realistic price.
Congrats to the new owner who stepped up to the plate and swung his bat for a notable weaving.
We were 100% correct about the two, way over-estimated, asmalyk, lots 73 and 79.
They did not sell.
And here are some other pre-sale predictions with post-sale comments added in bold type:
1. the Salting-group Safavid prayer rug will sell for 2 million plus.
As we already acknowledged we 100% missed the boat here by long yardage.
2. All but a few of the Chesrow embroideries will perform poorly.
We got this about 75 percent right.
3. Many of the various Turkish and Caucasian prayer rugs will sell well.
Another jump ball here but one which did not end up in our court. We did somewhat less than 50 percent here.
4. The Turkmen pieces from the Fernandes Collection, ie property of an Asian collector, will sell but at even more reduced numbers than the estimates.
Here we got it 100% right, and except for our former Eagle Kazak, Mr Fernandes lost a lot of money at sotheby.
5. The Hendrickson rugs will sell well, some for far more than their paltry estimates.
We got that 100% right as well, although this group from Hendrickson did not do as well as we expected they did have a good showing on the block.
6. The William Price rugs will also do well, but not across the board.
Right on 100% here as well and, not surprising for RK, Mr Price does not need an armoured car to pick up his proceeds from the sale.
Predicting how any auction will turn out is exceedingly difficult, as there are a myriad of factors which will come to play on sale day.
However, even the most anti-RK readers will have to admit RKs were definitely ones which had at least as good as a percentage as the 80 percent sotheby sold at the sale.
Plus remember there were many lots which sold for far less than they would have brought at good well-advertised country mixed antiques sale in the New England area, or elsewhere, when countless numbers of prospective bidders vie for the chance to take a rug from an out of the way minor sale and profit nicely from placing it in a major catalog one like sotheby.
This country-to-city paradigm works and has proven over the years to work well.
So, therefore, to load ones collection into a sale like sotheby pretty much guarantees the mid-range will not sell as well as they would in a venue that was not big city. This sale proved that admirably.
And while this sale is a success and it implies all is OK in RugDumB, there are a number of coming catalog rug auctions in Europe/USA which will also bring interesting collector pieces to the market-place.
Only after they are finished will one be able to truly judge where the market for antique/collector oriental rugs stands in 2014, and perhaps beyond.