Home > Auctions worldwide >Post-Sale Review Ignazio Vok at rippon-boswell
Sat, Apr 11th, 2020 12:54:52 PM
Topic: Post-Sale Review Ignazio Vok at rippon-boswell

Page view of liveauctioneers.com showing Ignazio Vok collection prices

As we have already written the seemingly stunning results of the Vok collection part 1 sale are unbelievable, as least as far as RK is concerned.

Our suspicions aside lets have a look at what happened.

We are not going to discuss the suzani, as this market is one we do not follow. By the way, RK once had a collection of suzani but we sold them all in 1975.

These pretty but far too urbanized, workshop, embroideries never really interested us much but they were fairly easy to find. However, as soon as we learned enough about real antique carpet collecting, and the superior wonders of early flatweaves from the TransCaucasus and then Anatolia, a suzani just didnt make it for us any more.

Not to say they really ever did; after all they were all drawn by a master and then the young girl embroidered the do-it-by-the-numbers design the master had drawn for her. So basically there is no real inspiration or art, and while the best early examples are genuinely respectable weavings they lack the guts, the true grit, the spontaneity and the historic connections we personally are looking for in the weavings we collect.

While this might seem dismissive, even the best suzani are just another pretty face that has little to nothing to communicate to anyone seeking deeper meaning and historic importance.

OK, our take on the results for the kelim and the occasional soumak lots in the sale.

As far as RK is concerned the best, rarest and most valuable kelim was lot 3, the Ottoman kelim.

It sold for a ridiculously paltry 7,000 euro against an estimate of 8 10,000 that was in reality equally as undervalued.

Clearly rippons audience doesnt know what RK knows, in fact the bidders on this lot and many, many others, proved to know little if anything about which kelim should be bought, and for how much.

Maybe Ignazio Voks name carried far more credibility than we are giving it credit.

Was this why bidders got so carried away and bid at comparably extreme levels for many less than stupendous, forget about masterpiece, weavings he formerly owned?

Sure seemed so.

The Ottoman kelim, lot 3, once upon a time was sold at Lefevre auction galleries in the late 1970s where it made, if our memory is correct, about 20,000 english pounds.

The rippon-boswell/Vok estimate of 8,000 10,000 euro for that reason alone, forget the rarity factor, was decidedly foolish to the low side

The buyer at the Lefevre sale was neil winterbottom and we do not remember when he sold it, nor do we know when and how Vok acquired it.

We do know, however, the successful bidder for lot 3 got the bargain of the sale, as early Ottoman kelims, and this one is early enough, are rare, rare, rare; plus it has excellent color and solid pre-Vok provenance as well.

Lets compare the Ottoman kelims price, 7,000 euro(all prices are listed without premiums) with the next lot, lot 4 that made 12,000 euro and you will see what RK can only call ignorant bidding at work.

Although many would consider Lot 4 pretty, it lacks any of the attributes which make a great, forget about masterpiece, Anatolian kelim.

Its nothing but a derivative weaving with no historic connection, no real captivating power or soul.

And besides there are several far better examples of the type extant.

Granted they were/are not for sale, so no discussion on that.

But there is on the price disparity, ie, 5,000 euro, that demonstrates what we will refer to as ignorant, nonsense bidding.

Note both lots 3 and 4 sold below estimates, something we predicted would happen throughout the sale and have not been proven wrong.

Lot 12, the Yuncu kelim made 10,000 euro against the 12 15,000 euro estimate.

Nothing but an unbelievable price considering this Yuncu is late, and terribly disfigured with glaringly mediocre restoration even the photo in the catalog can't hide.

It surely looks far worse in person, the buyer must have been intoxicated on maltzahn/Vok koolaid to shell out 10,000 euro plus 25% premium for this monstrosity.

Lot 15, the Azeri jijim horse cover sold for 6,000 (estimate 6 8,000 euro) to who we might ask?

Definitely someone who has never been into a good oriental rug shop where late 19th century covers like this are easily found and can be bought for half that price without even spirited bargaining.

Lot 20, the Belikesir kelim was one of the only two Vok kelim with pseudo-historic significance. We predicted it would eclipse the estimate, and it did selling for 22,000 euro against a 12,000 15,000 estimate.

It was one of the few kelim lots to significantly exceed its estimate, which shows at least two bidders were smart and awake enough.

Compare that price with the 74,000 euro lot 28, the seriously over-heralded Dragon soumak, brought to see ignorant bidding at work.

Frankly, we do not like this soumak one bit and know several others which can easily leave it behind in their dust.

Its just too obvious a weaving, with none of the suspense and intrigue the best transCaucasian soumak communicate.

Regardless of a hypothesis promulgated by alberto borelevi, and others like john weretime and Nick Wright, that holds most Dragon soumaks were made in workshop/factories (probably most were considering their cookie cutter patterns), there are others which clearly werent.

It is these that have those qualities Voks sorely lacks because its also a workshop/factory product.

Clearly the buyer, paying 74,000 euro, bought the hype and name, not the weaving.

Dont mistake RKs intent, lot 28 is a good piece, its just not a masterpiece, nor a weaving worth anyway near 74,000 euro plus 25% commission.

Though 74,000 euro is a goodly significant piece of change, and far more expensive than the 26,000 euro lot 31 brought, we find that price equally excessive.

The 18 23,000 euro estimate it carried seemed totally unreachable to us pre-sale, but cutesy animals do sell well to a nave, inexperienced audience, this being the only explanation for such a result.

Had the animals been artfully scattered over the field and interspersed with a plethora of interesting minor motif, such a weaving might be worth this price.

But here the unthoughtfully, stiffly designed and boringly executed row upon row of the same animal designs just doesnt make it art or wondrous in our eyes.

Nor is it folk art. Its amateur-level craft-work at best.

Though we see it as uninspired and not inspiring, we will grant its cutesy but is it cute enough to warrant 26,000 euro plus 25% commission?

RK has says No, and we doubt when and if it comes up for sale again it will sell as well.

Laughable is the only way to see rippon-boswell owner and auctioneer detlef maltzahns stupid catalog notes for lot 29, a late 19th century far from cute shadda, ie blanket.

Coarsely woven and with animal motifs reminiscent of woodcuts, the Vok example appears archaic. Made for home use, it constitutes an authentic work of folk art of narrative character that is in no way associated with commercial purposes.

By the later parts of the 19th century RK sincerely doubts any weavers remained untouched enough to be described as producing authentic works of folk art, maltzahns spiel nothing but blowing hot hype from between his lower cheeks.

Carrying a 2,500 3,500 estimate, it sold for 6,500 euro, surely to a buyer who is long on gullibility and far too short on the necessary expertise to differentiate maltzahns bogus sales talk from reality.

Plus the thing is God forsakenly ugly and would not be an easy sale anywhere else at even a 1,000 euro.

Lot 35, a decoratively colorful Kashgai box design kelim, brought 14,000 against a 4,500 5,500 euro estimate. A huge price for such a piece.

Once more who are these buyers and underbidders?

What wormwood have they crawled out from under to bid at rippon boswells sale?

And it aint early 19th century as maltzahn dated it for starters, try circa 1870. Nor is his hackneyed and absurd Look its modern art catalog caption anything but more worthless tripe.

At 14,000 18,000 euro estimate and with the following quotation being just part of the glowing catalog entry, lot 39 should have sold.

But it didnt.

The precision of drawing, memorable field design and excellent quality of the colours make this kilim one of the outstanding examples in the Vok Collection.

Heres an instance where maltzahns Vok catalog koolaid, plus some healthy spicing from Ebberhart Hermann who sold it years ago, failed to intoxicate any buyers.


RK has no idea but we do know it is one of best Anatolian kelim Vok purchased.

But any interest in older and genuine kelim does not describe the predilections of the audience this auction dredged up.

They proved enamored by solely decorative kelim.

And since there were no historic ones, nor ones even close, the Vok collection auction provided no indication what one would be worth today.

This is the major problem with the market for Anatolian kelim the absence of any masterpieces from the Archaic Period ever hitting the open market.

RKs Anatolian Opus has been viewed over ten thousand times and we can only imagine how it has influenced and educated kelim buyers.

We do know should an Archaic Period example show up RK will be a very serious contender for it.

But since none have turned up for the past 35 years chances are not very good anyone will get the chance to compete for one.

The other pseudo-historic kelim, lot 48, also as predicted bettered its estimate of 10 13,000 and sold for 18,000 euro.

RK was surprised this and lot 20 did not further out perform other far less important or rare kelim in the sale.

But again this group of buyers was looking for decorative pieces in good condition, not genuinely rare though damaged ones.

This could not be made more obvious than by comparing its price with the 14,000 euro paid for lot 49, a totally insignificant prayer kelim.

Lot 59, the so-called Karapinar saf, like lot 20 and lot 48, is a later version of one of the three of the most iconic Anatolian Kelim in the deYoung Museum collection, all gifts of Caroline and McCoy Jones.

Were there any real collectors of Anatolian kelim at the Vok sale these pieces would have made far greater prices. Fact they didnt proves our contention maltzahns buyers were not collectors at all but only open wallets there to acquire hyped, name associated, decorative kelim.

Lot 60, a totally derivative, somewhat ghastly Anatolian kelim sold for 22,000 euro, bettering the two and equaling those discussed above.

Amazingly ignorant buying, based on condition and hype/name, is all RK can remark.

Another perfect example of this ignorant buying is the comparison between lots 63 and 64, two Senneh kelim.

The first carried a 7 9,000 estimate and the other an 8 10,000 euro estimate.

Lot 63 is a very rare and beautiful major example of a scarce type; the best of breed being the Jenkins piece now in the collection of the Textile Museum, Washington DC.

Lot 63 sold for 6,000 but the other, a far lesser weaving that is fairly common and quite boring, sold for 8,500 euro.

Go figure, Senneh kelim like lot 64 are a dime a dozen whereas lot 63 is probably a generation or two older and eons rarer.

Why did it under-perform the other?

The only answer is an audience comprised of a bunch of rug dummy bidders led by an equally dopey expert, auctioneer and master hyper detlef maltzahn.

Eleven thousand euro for lot 71, a hardly ever seen but in the end boringly formulaic late 19th century Daghestan kelim? If we are not misten it too sold at Lefevre galleries in the late 1970s but we do not remember the price and have no time to try and locate our catalog.

Please now, who is spending their money for Vok collection mediocrities like this, where the only attribute is having been published several times more than 30 years ago in a book now considered tres old school?

Thirteen thousand euro for lot 72, a derivative to the max amorphous designed late 19th century piece of junk Anatolian kelim?

Guaranteed this dog will never have its day again.

Some say: If you know where to look money grows on trees, which might explain buyers at this sale who could not get rid of their filthy lucre fast enough and turn it into Vok collection heirlooms.

Granted, finding masterpiece kelims is alot harder than finding suzani, and no one can form a collection of outstanding examples over night. Nor at one auction.

And if one tries that route they will only end up where Vok has a collection with good but not great examples.

Heres another rug world truism: While most collectors know good from bad, they stumble seriously when trying to discern good from great, and even the very knowledgeable almost never can tell great from masterpiece.

So too are there gluttons who cant get enough, even if its only mediocre.

The Vok collection dispersal sale at rippon-boswell quite well proved both. It also seemingly proved RK wrong in thinking the market for Anatolian kelim was sophisticated.

It proved there is no market for Anatolian kelim unless they are decorative, 19th century, in good condition, come from a collection like Voks, and are sold at a venus fly-trap auction operation like detlef maltzahns rippon-boswell.

Author: RK
email: [email protected]
Sat, Apr 11th, 2020 12:54:52 PM

RK Replies:

Hey There Michael Black:

First, thanks for the kudos. But frankly RK never doubted you and many others recognize the validity of our positions vis-s-vis those two issues. And others as well, we cannot help but add.

Second, RK did not "just analyze a sale that happened in 2015". We only moved it from the archives, where it has been since original publication in 2015 to this Topic Area.

We did add a comment or two but have not revisited the meaning and results of the sale.

Honestly, RK seriously doubts were the Vok sale to happen today the major buyers, who were mostly Turkish nouveau collectors and dealers bidding for them, would be less active (and bid less) on many of the lots that were the sale's higher flyers.

RK does think the sales percentage would be lower by about 15% and the gross for the sale about 25% less.

Look, "masterpieces" in what you call and move in "the art world" are plentiful, this is far from the case in rugDumb. One artist alone, say Pablo Picasso, painted hundreds of canvases, and depending on who you talk to there are a hundred or more "masterpieces" of varying degrees.

Look, what was in the Vok collection was, compared to most kelim, far better than average. His best, though not nearly masterpiece quality on our eyes, were "masterpieces" in the eyes of many of the successful bidders.

You have been interested in Anatolian kelim for a decade now, and you have seen both what is on the public market and what is in private hands. How many kelim comparable to Vok's best have you seen?

And taking that question further: How many kelim comparable to what is in the McCoy Jones or RK collection have you seen?

See the problem is not falling prices, or demand. The problem is there is no supply -- not even one -- truly masterpiece Anatolian kelim that is for sale, or ever was.

When something is too rare, no market can ever be established.

The major effect of the Vok sales were establishing a "market" for good and very good Anatolian kelim. But that "market" has nothing to do with what a "masterpiece" one would sell for.

When there is no supply hardly any demand can exist. How many people, buyers, want to want something that is unobtainable?

This is a contranian fact but one that describes the Anatolian kelim.

Do you know the record public price for an Anatolian kelim?

Let RK tell you: The record price remains the $73,300 paid for a large colorful "saf" fragment sold at rippon boswell in Nov. 1997.

Kelim fragment ex-Kailash Gallery; sold rippon boswell Nov 1997 120,000DM ($73,300)

As an aside there is a very similar much larger fragment in the deyoung museum Carolyn and McCoy Jones collection, Plate 9 "Anatolian Kilims".

Both of these RK calls "pseudo-Saf" and "pipette" types. To say we are not impressed by anything other than their color would be very accurate.

We attended the rippon sale and are sure had we been interested, and a motivated buyer, the price would have gone substantially higher.

For now the behind the scenes story of this fragment, and who bought it, will have to remain unmentioned. The salient point, and reason for our mention, is to put the Anatolian kelim price game into perspective.

We will add RK does not in any way believe the Kailash or the Jones fragments are equal to anyone of the masterpieces, aka Archaic Period, examples.


In one word: Iconography. They have no evocative imagery like the Archetypes. They only have beautiful colors and expert materials.

But they have nothing to say. They are speechless when it comes to conveying mysterious, ancient content that make the Archaic period examples so important.

We are not going to turn this reply into a tutorial on what makes an Anatolian kelim a masterpiece. Excuse our ending this here.

So your trying to equate what people are doing in the "art world" with what is happening with Anatolian kelim is patently impossible.

Your 50 cents on the dollar equation for "masterpieces" is too general a paradigm to really have relevance or meaning.

There is an old Yiddish expression : There's diamonds and there's Diamonds. We are sure you get the point.

Even masterpieces have levels. We are sure the greatest Piccasso, or Warhol, or any other big name art world figures work, is not selling for 50 cents on the dollar. Far from it.

Sure lesser "masterpieces" might well be selling for even less; however, major masterpieces by major artists surely have far more juice behind them.

We have said this before : Rugdumb is just that, dumb.

There are few who understand the difference between a very good weaving and a great one. You saw this yourself, Michael, at the Alexander sale.

Undoubtedly the best lot was the Pink Panther. The price you paid was only determined by ME, not by you or anyone else. The paddle waver underbidder was acting on my instructions and the price you paid was only the result of his getting scared and his failure to continue bidding.

He should have continued to 1,000,000$. That and more is what that rug is "worth". You got it for half price. Lucky you.

So is there a market for Anatolian weavings?

Well, of course, yes, but not really. Unlike the "art world" there are no strong, expert and knowledgeable buyers who are the underbidders and real price makers.

These factors, and others unmentioned, are the forces that shape what is going on with "masterpiece" Anatolian kelim and carpets. Not some half price bid/offer charade.

Too few, particularly kelim, and no real astute buyers. This is the game.

RK has been collecting kelim for more than 50 years and if anyone knows why the situation is what it is, it's us.

So enjoy your Pink Panther rug and looking at pictures of great kelim. Seems you will never get the chance to own one, or even rise to the occassion should it present itself.


I have to say you do seem to be correct in your views regarding the quality and pricing in this sale. You are also correct that your collection of Archaic flat weaves is on par with the pieces in the McCoy Jones collection. What interests me is you just analyzed a sale in 2015; how would this sale fair today in this world of pandemic and economic hardship? I have talked with other art dealers and they say they are offering 50 cents on the dollar for masterpieces regardless. They say their cash is sacred and they will bid at 50 cents and if a seller wants it they will transact but if not they will wait and make other offers for other masterpieces. This is art not flat weaves or rugs. A infinity larger market. So what happens in rugdom? Are transactions taking place? How would Vok fair today? It is scary. Be well be safe.

Author: jc
email: [email protected]
Fri, Apr 10th, 2020 09:58:38 AM

For all you locked-in, sheltering in place-ites reading this and the other RK posts concerning the Vok sales will surely prove interesting.

The deflation that has occurred in RugDumb, as well as in just about any other art field, would, and will, make a redo of the Vok sales suprisingly different.

The big kelim buyers at his three sales were mostly Turkish collectors and dealers bidding for collectors. They exhibited little real knowledge, taste or connoisseurship.

They competed against each other kiting prices for many of Vok's kelims way beyond their real, or even relative, values.

It will be some show when and if what they bought returns to the for sale market. Should this happen, they like Vok will lose their shirts.

So put "Vok sale" in our homepage search and relive those thrilling results of yesteryear.

This morning that is exactly what we did.

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