Cover of the rippon-bowell Vok collection brochure
This weekend someone showed RK the brochure/publicity hype for the upcoming, and well rumored about, dispersal of Dr. Ignazio Vok's effort to amass a 'collection' of Kelim and Central-Asian Suzani.
As it reads Vok began his collecting in 1974, working with "leading dealers".
The sum total of pieces he purchased is 263.
RK watched from the sidelines as Vok's wallet often opened to purchase far less than the "masterpieces" boswell's brochure tries to picture.
In fact, besides for a couple of masterpiece Suzani, the rest of the gear which will be hitting boswell's auction block in April 2015 is just stuff, surely not masterpieces that will be hotly contested by a sea of waving paddles and phone bidders.
His entire collection has already been published in four volumes, two on Suzani and two on Flatweaves -- one for his Anatolian Kelims and the other for his Persian and Caucasian flatweaves.
RK knows both Flatweave books well, some of the examples long before before Vok bought them.
We can assure readers we will NOT be among those holding a paddle in the air, or even thinking about doing so.
We can also assure readers the Suzani group will do well, as there is an avid but not tremendously expert number of collectors for these flashy bridal "virgin quilts". Vok's Suzani are no doubt much better than his flat weaves, much better.
The Anatolian kelim, along with the Persian and Caucasian flatweaves, will fare far, far more poorly.
It is not that there are no collectors for these weavings.
On the contrary there are many, however, they are far more educated and experienced in their collecting interests and experienced in their field.
And it is for this reason their level of taste is far higher than today's Suzani buyers.
Combined with the absence of any true masterpiece Kelim or flatweaves, and the predominance of OK to good material, we are positive short of either aggressive buybacks or a miracle of PR bringing John and Jane Doe to purchase 'furnishing' kelim and flatweaves for their floors RK predicts these segments of the Vok 'collection' will fail and fail miserably.
Oh yes there is one more caveat to our prognostication: reserve prices.
Should Vok throw caution to the wind and place low reserves, or none at all, then we are sure most of the pieces will sell.
But they will sell for give-away prices, much lower than those he paid from the "experts" who guided his 263 wallet-openings.
There is, though, a larger issue here than how successful or not the sales will be. That is why yet another big-time well known collector is giving up and getting out.
Recently the Dall'Oglio collection was sold lock, stock and barrel to moshe tabibnia, who is working hard as a beaver to recoup his investment.
Both Vok and Dall'Oglio had plenty of money and surely did not in any way need to sell their weavings.
Both had spent the majority of their adult lives "passionately" collecting, and both were vocal about their pursuits -- Vok far more than the reserved and gentlemanly way Dall'Oglio went about it.
As an aside the Dall'Oglio collection is, on a scale of ten, a ten; one that is mucho more important than Vok's -- there is no comparison.
So why did these men, who spent great amounts of time, energy and money collecting oriental weavings throw in the towel?
RK surely has no inside information -- Dall'Oglio is dead and Vok would never talk with us, as his "experts" were too afraid to let him near us and have their recommendations receive true critical appraisal.
Too bad for Vok he did not seek our help as we would have led him away from buying OK/good examples and into buying only masterpieces.
He'd have a far small collection but one that would elicit excited participation from buyers. And a net return that would be positive, and not the negative one he will for sure 100 percent experience.
We believe Vok and Dall'Oglio realized the writing that is on the wall -- oriental carpet collecting is a declining universe which gets darker and colder as each year progresses.
There is no cross-over to any other art areas. There is no new blood coming into this field. There is no interest by museums and other art institutions to get involved in this field. There is no press coverage to bring interest. There are no fashionable wealthy beautiful-people coming to rug auctions. There is only a group of less than brilliant hardened, and now elderly collectors and a bunch of mostly greedy dealers.
Why would a Dall'Oglio or a Vok continue?
There will be over the coming two-year period three rippon-boswell sales to disperse the Vok "collection". The first is April 15, 2015.
Here is a laughable blurb from the brochure:
"Vok developed a particular appreciation of Islamic textiles, evolving into one of the greatest 20th century collectors in this field. A successful architect, he has a sure sense of form, color and composition was well as the interplay of aesthetics and function. He decided to acquire only those objects that would stand up to critical appraisal and would affect him deeply -- in other words objects conveying an artistic message that captivated him. Accustomed in his profession to thinking big and planning ahead, but at the same time guided by the hunting instinct of the passionate collector, he quickly realized that he needed to establish ties with the best dealers of the day in order to secure the best objects. This approach meant that his textile collection underwent a twofold selection process, first by an art dealer and then by the collector himself."
There is no doubt detlef maltzahn of rippon-boswell is a hypster extraodinaire when it comes to publicizing his auctions.
If the truth be known Vok was NOT, nor will ever be, considered a great collector. His "collection" will not end up in any museum. And the prices at his boswell auctions will be mediocre with a sales percentage around 50%, probably less. That is if the reserves will reflect his original costs.
We will close with this additional quote from the brochure -- one which would be even more laughable were it not so hackneyed and bogus.
"Due to his age and the fact his children follow other interests, Ignazio Vok has decided to release his entire textile collection for purchase by other enthusiastic collectors. He has declined offers for the whole collection as he believes that the pieces "blew in" from many diffrerent countries, each with a history of their own, and having given him so much pleasure, they now need to be redistributed all over the world."
Here a translation: Vok decided to sell at auction because he could not get anyone to pay even his original costs for the collection and he hopes the miracle boswell no doubt conjured up, but surely not guaranteed, will happen.
We'd wish Vok "Good Luck" but he'll need far more than a rabbit's foot in his pocket on sales days.