Detail Lot 137
Buyers at the munkasci collection auction might appear to many to have been highly discriminate.
However as discriminate some might imagine they were choosing what to buy, they were more indiscriminate in what they did not buy.
Yeah, there is no doubt this portion of the munkasci collection - rumors abound as to exactly how many other Turkmen pieces remain in his stash -- was not good enough to carry such a large load to a successful conclusion.
This is obvious, just as the multitude of good -- but not very good, or great, forget masterpiece examples that in a more bouyant market with ample new collectors coming in would have readily found buyers, here and now did not.
The fact munkasci failed to pay attention to the warning signs this was the case, and has been accelerating for more than a decade, speaks volumes to his inability to realize the market has gone way past the age/quality/condition of many of his pieces.
And just as important it would and could not supply buyers who might want what he had.
The blame goes on him, not Udo Langauer and Austria Auction who put on a good show doing everything possible to produce a satisfactory result from munkascis decision to sell such a load in one sale.
We are sure people will be talking about this auction for a long time, and while RK definitely was not privy to who really made that decision it is clear to us in instances like this the buck stops at the consignor, not the auctioneer.
We are also sure the marketplace for Turkmen rugs is not as smart as some pundits believe. The proof being what sold and what was unsold.
For instance Lot 95, an Ersari chuval, estimated for 2,400 3,400 euro sold for 3,400 plus 22% commission.
Several lots later a far better example of Ersari weaving, Lot 98 an engsi, failed to attract any bidding regardless of the fact its estimate was a giveaway 2,000 2,500 euro.
Granted it was not in perfect condition but it was old and rare enough.
The chuval, which also was far from perfect, had only those cutesy far from classic top and bottom panels in its favor.
Obviously it was those panels with a derivative design most likely originating on certain Saryk engsi elem panels(see below) that sold it.
Detail lower elem Lot 217
Those panels are far from important enough to add 3,000 euro to an ordinary, nothing special 400 euro chuval.
This is not intelligent collecting, nor connoisseurship; it is buying driven by amateurish knowledge and nothing else.
Same can be said comparing lot 100, a late not so interesting Yomut OkBash
Lot 100 sold for 3,400 euro plus 22% commission
with Lot 112, a quite rare seven-sided Ersari asmalyk that attracted no attention and was unsold.
OK, the asmalyk was estimated 5,000 7,000 euro, twice the estimate of the OkBash, but it is 10 times the piece; older, rarer, and to anyone with developed eyes for Turkmen weaving far more beautiful.
Lot 123, a late Tekke mafrash estimated 2,800 3,500 euro, sold for 3,000 euro plus 22% commission.
But the far earlier, far better in every sense of the word except pile height, Tekke mafrash, Lot 122 estimated for 1,800 2,200 euro, failed to sell.
Lot 123 had 10 colors and the so-called football main gol, one that would be better referred to as the Karadashli gol named after the Yomut group who seem to have been originally associated with it.
Clearly those two factors made it sell.
Apparently buyers were influenced by the fact Lot 122 had only 7 colors and more common banner gol. Though in fact they should not have overlooked the reality Lot 122 was appreciably earlier, had far better and more beautiful colors, was a superior example of a rare type, and lastly was earlier and better than a similar mafrash sold in the pinner collection second auction.
That one was Yomut, not Tekke, and more than probably a copy of the rarer and earlier seldom offered for sale Tekke ones of which Lot 122 was one of the best we have yet seen.
Lot 17, Yomut mafrash; rippon-boswell robert pinner study collection auction
Mistakes like these litter the results of the munkasci auction and go far past the distance necessary to demonstrate the market for Turkmen weavings is still far from expert or possessing enough connoisseurship to differentiate good earlier, rarer examples from mediocre and commonplace ones.
Another example of rather blindsighted buying is Lot 116, a boring, nothing special quite common Yomut Bokche estimated at 3,500 4,500 euro, selling for 3,000 euro plus 22% commission.
A far better, far superior one with a design we have never seen before, Lot 152 estimated for a giveaway 1,800 2,200 euro, did not sell.
To miss its unique design and smaller size (53 x 62 cm versus 64 x 66 cm), a factor that always indicates an earlier Bokche from a later one, is inexcusable. Forget the chance to own such a piece for a very reasonable price.
Then there was the non-preformance of Lot 137 a super rare, super beautiful, early fragment of a turreted gol S group chuval.
Amazing considering many small fragments of now often sighted at auction S group MCs (main carpets), have changed hands at similar and even higher prices.
Plus this was a fragment from no ordinary turreted S group chuval, but one with the rarest and hardly ever appearing Memling styleminor gol.
This piece was exhibited in the Boston acor New England collectors exhibition when it was, as we had heard it, in the collection of Yon Bard.
We can remember well studying it and discovering it had both asymmetric and symmetric knots leading to an impossibile to propose provenance.
We do recognize the estimate, 5,000 7,000 euro, was not cheap, but really now what educated collector would rather have one of those derivative and boring Tekke turreted gol chuval, like Lot 171 which sold for 5,500 euro plus 22% commission?
Yes, RK realizes horses for courses; Lot 171 was in excellent condition but on any other level, particularly art value, Lot 137 wins hands down.
OK enough well deserved negative comments, lets look at the few positive examples of buyer savvy at the sale worth noting.
Lot 89, a well-worn but still presentable Yomut MC, Lot 89, is an example of savvy buying.
The successful bidder outbid some weak competition to take home this MC for a reasonable 3,800 euro plus 22% commission.
The large, well drawn kepse gol and distinctive white ground main border were its two most outstanding and obvious aspects. Equally notable were crystal clear coloration and superb wool.
While we might bemoan the fact more spirited bidding should have occurred, lets come down on the side at least two bidders did recognize its worth.
Next, though we could debate if it actually was an engsi or not, is Lot 99.
RK has long opposed calling pieces like this engsi because they do not have the requisite three main iconographic musts the distinctive typical engsi outer border, one or two elem panels at the bottom and hatchli format, a field divided into four panels.
This Ersari has two of those criteria, the outer border and bottom elem panel, but not the third, the hatchli field panels. So in our book it is not an engsi but a small format rug that apes being an engsi.
Not to sweat the small stuff and the fact it is somewhat on the small side (150x109cm) for an engsi and not pre-1850, this Ersari was eye catching, unusual, and good looking enough.
Those three qualities we are sure motivated buyer and underbidder to price it up to 3,600 euro plus 22%commission, which is definitely on the low end of what it might have sold for under other, less crowded for attention, circumstances.
This result was not alone and, as we have already remarked, had munkasci spread his offering out over several sales, and not loaded it all into one, selling prices would have undoubtedly been higher.
Although Lot 105, an Arabstchi engsi, has synthetic dye discounting any chance to have real collector appeal, it nonetheless was an example in the most iconic and rare Arabatchi engsi format.
A considerably earlier and superior one of this type was published in Grote-Hasenbalg in the 1920s but few others have since appeared. So for a certain type of Turkmen rug buyer the synthetic dye hurdle was easily jumped.
And paying a mere 3,800 euro plus 22% commission surely turned out to be an enticement as well.
Lot 108, a cut and shut Chodor chuval, once belonged to RK. We purchased it in the middle 1970s from a rug collector who had acquired it at auction in Paris, France.
It is also published in our Tent Band Tent Band book and at 2,400 euro plus 22% commission was definitely another giveaway, as we believe it to be one of the best extant Chodor Ertman gol chuvals.
The extremely life-like pairs of birds in one of the two different equal sized major gol, there are no minor gol, the unique minor border, and the early style of articulating the major border are just several of its attributes.
We seriously were thinking of buying it back but decided to let it go.
However, you never know what will happen and maybe it will appear again and we can change our mind and go for it.
The Ersari MC, Lot 133, rightfully sold and like almost every other sold lot changed hands at a quite reasonable number, 10,000 euro plus 22% commission.
Dated circa 1800, something we suggest could have easily been late 18th century, its smallish size might well indicate it was woven for yurt use, as MC that are larger than say 2.5 x 2 meters could have never fit into a yurt.
We do not believe many MC with larger dimensions, and of course heavier weight, were made by nomadic yurt dwellers due to difficulty to comfortably transport them.
Another unmistakable early feature is the exceedingly rare minor gol, one which RK calls the archaic gol.
In fact for sometime we have been working on an analysis of this fascinating icon and perhaps sooner than later it will be published here on RugKazbah.com.
We do know a small number of much earlier MC and fragments with this minor gol almost all of them already published, and we invite readers to seek them out for edification.
Moving along, theres no doubt everyone in Turkmen collecting circles believes the name jon thompson carries weight.
But to the consternation of many RK has not only questioned this but proven what a fallacy it actually is.
Lot 191, a charming (how many Turkmen weavings can bear that label) Ersari chuval fragment, formerly in his collection and sold in the thompson collection sale at sotheby in NY, made 8,000 euro plus 22% commission this time around.
RK wonder if readers are curious how much a thompson factor added to the price?
Wed have to surmise at least 4,000 5,000 euro, as we sincerely doubt it would have made more than 3,000 4,000 without the thompson tag.
Regardless, its a very pretty thing.
Not very old, as the catalog notes dating it second half 19th century, something shown by the far from classic motifs in the elem panel.
The S group chuval, Lot 192, is another former RK collection piece, in fact there are half a dozen pieces we used to own in the sale. Not all of them, like this one and the Chodor chuval, are published in the Tent Band Tent Bag book.
Over the years RK has discovered and owned a more than a dozen early S group chuvals.
We have been researching them since learning of their unique techincal aspects after purchasing and carefully reading the annotated edition of the Bogoluybov book reprint in 1975.
Several months later on a buying trip to the west coast we acquired Lot 192 in Los Angeles, but it was not the first S group chuvl we bought, it was the second.
That honor goes to one we found several weeks after buying the Bogoluybov publication in Boston being used as the door mat of an antique store on Charles Street.
About a year later, after months of his pestering, we sold it to michael franses who immediately put it into a Lefevre sale where it sold to a German collector, who sometime later traded it to another German collector who then some years later sold it to an American collector.
The whereabouts of this well travelled S group chuval are presently unknown to us.
But ahhh remembering the good old days when chance discoveries like that were possible, and believe it or not actually more than a rare occurance.
The 22,000 euro plus 22% commission Lot 192 sold for was another giveaway bargain, as in our opinion it is the archetype for all others of the type.
RK suggests readers study its defining iconography carefully by comparing it to others.
RK also owned two other S group chuval in the sale, Lots 160 and 223 both purchased several years after Lot 192. they failed to attract attention and were unsold primarily because the well financed buyers for S group weaving still value condition over age and historical importance.
Lot 160 is a superior example to Lot 223, hence our reason for deaccessioning it and retaining Lot 160 until 1990. Lot 160 was also published in the Tent Band Tent Bag book
In 1990 it was quite a surprise for RK to see Lots 160 and 192 not sell in the disasterous, thanks to the underhanded actions of bill aka the snake ruprecht, Tent Band Collection sale at sotheby New York.
This was a time collectors of Turkmen weavings were even more naive and uneducated than today.
The fact Lot 160, 223 and several other S group pieces in the munkasci auction failed to sell shows todays collectors also are not as educated as many of them seem to imagine.
Another surprise was the feeble showing the pair of Yomut white asmalyk, Lots 208 and 209, made selling for 20,000 euro and 24,000 euro plus 22% commission respectively.
They were purchased by munkasci in London at a Christie carpet sale in 1991, for about the same price if our memory serves us well.
These asmalyk are exceeding rare, and another pair is unknown to us. Why did they not achieve a higher price?
We have already cited several reasons for munkascis lackluster results but in this case we can only point to the fact there are a few others of the type that are arguably somewhat earlier and better looking.
One of those is shown below:
Offered for sale by Bausback in 1983
Their failure, in our opinion, was also due to the lack of a similar cadre, however small, of trophy hunting gentlemen collectors for Turkmen weavings as now exists for Caucasian and Anatolian ones.
The selling of Lot 51, the Schurmann Caucasianrug in the first part of the sale for 135,000 euro plus 22% commission and the Transylvanian double niche rug for 45,000 plus 22% commission, provides ample proof.
No doubt Turkmen weavings are more difficult to study and not as visual and colorfully eye-appealing.
These are probably the primary factors responsible for this situation, but there are others we could cite
Had Lots 208 and 209 appeared in another venue not packed with Turkmen weavings we are sure they would have reached a significantly more substantial price point.
One more munkasci giveaway present was Lot 214, a respectable but on the late side, Arabatchi engsi selling for 3,800 euro plus 22% commission.
Surely a bargain for any collector, even an advanced one, as these engsi are not nearly as common as Saryk ones that somehow have garnered a reputation that is way beyond their rarity, importance or real value.
And Lot 217, munkascis Saryk engsi, is a perfect example selling for 20,000 euro plus 22% commission.
One of the few S group examples to break through the unsold ceiling was Lot 220, a fragmented torba with the Aksu pattern.
Aksu patterned pieces are not really must haves for most collectors but this example, with brilliant color thanks to great dyes and good high pile, did sell well enough at 16,000 euro plus 22% commission.
Perhaps the fact it will be published in the now decade long ever soon coming jorg rageth Turkmen book that promises to demonstrate the accuracy and efficacy of c14 dating for Turkmen rugs was responsible.
RKs position on c14 dating for carpets has long been public and as a total doubting thomas we await rageths book and will be sure to review it with the diligence and expertise found in all our reviews.
Almost all of munkascis major pieces, those with estimates over 10,000 euro, failed to find buyers and while we suspected this would be the case we did not realize how pervasive it would turn out to be.
There were some that were over-priced for sure, regardless of the fact munkasci bought them at such prices. This nearly never translates into convincing buyers many years later to pay accordingly.
Lot 221was not in that category, as pre-1800 Saryk timurjin gol MC are rare birds and this one had shiny, super high quality wool and was yurt size, though perhaps a bit too far on high end of the requisite 250x200cm.
Perhaps the catalogs too conservative dating, circa 1800, and not mid-18th century where RK would date it, put off some potential buyers as well.
Likewise, it does have condition issues, but these factors should have been mitigated by quality and being 250 years old.
Disappointment can be the only possible reaction munkasci comes away with from this auction and wed be very surprised if he will in the forseeable future auction any more of his collection, especially if the remaining pieces are the same or lower quality.
From all those rumors circulating none seem to suggest what remains is far better, in which case does munkasci really need another wake-up call?