Home > Auctions worldwide >Christie London April 8th sale
Fri, Apr 11th, 2014 11:45:12 AM
Topic: Christie London April 8th sale

Predictably, and easily so, William Robinson and crew's April 2014 sale was eminently successful. The cash register rang to a tune of just over 4 million pounds ($6,680,000) with just over 75% of the lots selling.

This is good news for those in the business of selling, or having in their closets, certain types of carpets and rugs. It surely shows the status quo and reveals absolutely nothing new.

RK has quite some time ago, and for various reasons, decided to forgo publicly commenting on oriental carpet sales. Frankly it is a waste of our time, regardless of the fact a number of readers have asked us to and been disappointed we haven't continued.

Sorry to those who enjoyed or directly benefited from our usually right on predictions.

But there is a larger, actually several, issues which a sale like Christie's, or its obviously easily compared "Distinguished Collections" sale at sotheby New York, raise.

We are in the process of publishing something to address this and will have it online soon.

Stay tuned...

Author: jc
Fri, Apr 11th, 2014 11:45:12 AM

What some art world critics refer to as auction phenomena has always struck us as a gross misnomer and misunderstanding.

Yes, it is absolutely true buyers at auction get the hots far more easily than those who buy face to face from a seller.

The reasons for this are easily enumerated, and just as easily proven to be as false and fallacious as a three-dollar bill.

Sure, having a glossy catalog in hand to show friends makes many buyers willing to spend far more for an art object, just like buying a piece of jewelry in a cute blue Tiffany box allows a merchant like Tiffany to charge far more, like 100 500 percent more, than the equivalent would cost from any other lesser known but reputable jeweler.

Also the buyer at auction, once smitten, is forced to put up, or miss out, when that lot comes under the hammer.

Or, as one moshe tabibnia once told RK If someone offers me a piece today I know I can probably buy it tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. But when I see something at auction I have to buy it on auction day or never again get the chance.

This logic is logical but is it factual?

An art work is not really worth any more because of having its picture in a glossy catalog. Actually after the sale, and likely for a long time afterwards and maybe forever, most probably it will become instantly worth far less.


For sure RK could spend several paragraphs showing reasons and examples why this is almost always the case.

But let us forgo that and answer the question with an analogy.

When you buy a new car from a dealership and drive it out of the showroom your purchase immediately becomes worth 25-35% less.

Once a car is registered to an owner and driven even 10 miles this is absolutely the case.

Same with a rug or carpet bought at auction or from a high profile, catalog producing, dealer.

Now you might say Well what about when a dealer like tabibnia or hermann buys at auction, does some minimal investment like cleaning or repairing, and then represents the rug for a large and handsome profit?

Again, it's the glossy catalog effect, plus the Hes an expert and buying from him guarantees quality.

This is also as bogus and incorrect a paradim, as for example many hermann pieces have returned to the market, both at auction and privately, and sold for far less than they originally did when purchased from him.

By the way hermann is not the only dealer whose clients have suffered this fate; we could point out others, like sailer and Halivem, but he was surely the highest profile and most prolific perpetrator.

It an uncontestable fact unless the buyer is an expert buying at auction, or from a high profile dealer, has no guarantee the investment in a rug will ever return a profit or worse even return the original investment, ie cost.

This fact of life is one completely ignored by all commentators, pundits and the dealers themselves. Its the smoking gun, the something is rotten in Denmark part of the art world.

And in no other arena like the oriental carpet and rug one is this more pervasive.

Since RK knows this well, and has for our entire career as a rug collector, we never cease to be amazed by the actions of collectors and other rug buyers.

But even more we are amazed by the reportage that appears in that rag hali, which is besides RugKazbah.com, the rug worlds sole voice.

Shame that rag hali, unlike RK, has much reportage that is colored by self-interest and a healthy dose of disingenuity some might even call dishonesty.

Fact its the reason for our publishing this --a commentary on their websites Christie sale review written by Daniel Shaffer.

By the way, RK likes and respects Shaffer but we do not give him much credit as a rug expert.

To his credit Shaffer has acknowledged this to us in private; and it is one of the reasons RK respects him.

And although some in rugDUMB still believe that rag hali to be the pre-eminent voice, this is another bogus assumption since a decade plus still wet behind the ears editor, ben evans, and everyone else working there takes the back seat to Shaffer when it comes to rug-expertise.

Generally we found, as usual, that rag halis review to be nothing but a happy face, say little to nothing significant, effort.

There is some behind the scene info, like the Doha Islamic Museum purchased the Beshir prayer rug, formerly in the Bernheimer stash, and an unnamed art collector splashed out and purchased a number of lots including the Volkman incorrectly provenanced so-called Bergama rug, lot 12, which is far more probably a Melas area production.

Its grandfather, which actually is 17th century, formerly was in the Joseph McMullan collection and thanks to his gift is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Not willing to stop at the almost absolutely improbable idea the rug was made in Bergama, the Christies catalog tried to float the ludicrous lead-balloon their lot 12 was superior to McMullans.

Nonsense, is all RK can say olJoe Ms is so far the superior its nothing but a slam dunk.

We can also say both that rag halis Shaffer and Christies staff needs to learn a whole lot more about weavings that are made outside the confines of the atelier/workshop environment, as mistakes like these are an ever-present part of their supposed expertise.

The main theme here is our belief the success of the Christie sale has within it, as did the Distinguished Collections sale and just about every other major rug sale we can remember, the continuingly germinating seeds of rugDUMB demise and its remaining forever wallowed at the bottom of the art world barrel.

These are pretty damning words but well prove them, read on.

Many, many moons ago we can remember michael franses, who as just about everyone should know by now once again owns that rag hali, proudly showing us a fragmentary classical Persian rug he had backed on natural colored linen mounted on a stretcher.

What do you think he said doesnt this make it into a piece of art?.

Actually, this made us laugh as mounting something on a stretcher that is art doesnt make it more art. And mounting something that aint art surely doesnt make it into art.

Although the logic of this was lost on a primary school drop-out like franses, proof of whose two dimensional understand of what is and what isnt art could fill an entire issue of that rag hali, it was not lost on us.

Plus while both a rug and a painting are three-dimensional objects, a painting has none of the three-dimensional qualities a rug or a weaving possesses. You cant hold, touch or feel a painting and destroying these sensory pleasures by mounting one on a stretcher and basically turning it into a two-dimensional object is just about as stupid as you can get.

But franses, and others, know getting people to think a rug is art is the only way to broaden possible participation of buyers.

Too bad they are too intellectually bankrupt to believe putting a rug on a mounted stretcher is the way to do this.

So one of the holy grail of rug dealing, getting art collectors to buy rugs, remains the dream. And Shaffers mention of the art collector who was a prolific buyer throughout the sale is just furthering wishful thinking towards this dream.

We must say we are curious who this art collector really is, as we are also to the identity of the European institution that bought lot 22, the Damascus checkerboard carpet.

The rug world surely needs art collectors and institutions to get involved, but until all those involved with rugs significantly raise the tenor of their game RK sincerely doubts this will ever happen.

We would like to finish off by making public and going on the record with our critique of some of Shaffers comments about several of the lots in the sale.

First off the Ladik prayer rug about which he wrote: Another ex-Bernheimer piece, lot 13, a 17th century west Anatolian coupled-column prayer rug, surely a strong candidate for best of type, was a bargain at 116,500/$192,925.

This is only over-blown hype, as lot 13 is nothing but a stiff, soul-less, albeit capable, attempt to reproduce this format.

For instance, because the major borders cartouches are too large and are pasted against the perimeters of the border they fail to float in the space and therefore appear flaccidly stuck in place.

Plus their form is boringly repeated and rote.

For a demonstrably better version of this cartouche border, one that was even in their sale, see for example the far better, more exciting and lively articulation lot 19 main border displays.

Although here too the cartouches are too large, at least the weaver did not paste them directly against the borders edge.

This trans-Caucsian long rug is far better a piece of art than that paint by the numbers Ladik prayer rug, but it still is not good enough to raise our temperature as much as it apparently did for some buyers. Having only a well done but surely not brilliant or best of type rendition border does not a great rug make.

These same comments can be lodged at the tree-like forms that fill the spaced between the prayer rug's larger central niche and the two smaller flanking ones.

Plus the too busy and, again too large for the space, pseudo-floral and animal squiggles placed between the smaller two niches and the border, as well as their being squished into the spandrel above the niches, surely would never appear in a best of type column prayer rug or one that could really be considered 17th century.

This rug is absolutely a formulaic copy, credibly done but surely not brilliant or worth any idea it is a best of type.

Besides for the fact we are not interested in 18th century and later workshop Turkish prayer rugs, which this one surely is, and since our library is packed away and where we are presently provides no opportunity we are unable to show one of this group we might nominate.

Next we take even greater umbrage at Shaffer calling that late, end of the line at best, bird asmalyk a beautiful, large, Tekke Turkmen bird asmalyk.

Hello, Earth calling Shaffer, were that Tekke asmalyk, lot 90, really beautiful and anything but the late copy it truly is the price it would have made would have eclipsed by a factor of at least 3 and maybe 5 the 56,250/$93,430 it made at the sale.

Equally as bad and rug ignorant was Shaffers calling that pathetic, stiff as a semi tractor truck tire flattened squirrel yellow-ground Konya long rug, lot 7, collectible".

Pray tell, Shaffer, by who might RK ask?

No one we can imagine other than the most neophyte collector of uninspired workshop pseudo-Anatolian Village rugs.

Please now, Daniel, your mention of the piece is, for RK, as transparent as cling-wrap and wed venture to guess whoever bought it is among the crowd that rag hali needs to praise and favor in print.

However, bad the above gaffs are the end of Shaffers concluding paragraph, we have highlighted in bold type, almost made us barf our nice lunch.

By any measure, therefore, the King Street sale is a terrific start for Louise Broadhurst as the new head (since January 2014) of Christies London Oriental Rugs and Carpets Department, who, like SNY, have shown themselves capable of rising to the challenge of todays peculiar market circumstances.

And what in Heavens Name are those peculiar market circumstances"?

Well not even bother to guess, or put words into Daniels mouth, although we will point out the word peculiar does contain the word liar.

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