detail elem icon, middle classic period Yomud engsi; unpublished, RK Collection
Reading that rag hali has become what RK can only liken to the front page of any main stream media (msm) publication nothing but a toxic mixture of reality denial, distorted half facts and self-aggrandized posturing.
Perhaps the worst offender being the editorials since ben aka jimmy olsen evans has penned them.
The latest issue, 184 summer 2015, provides no welcome relief from evanss cockeyed take on rugDUMB.
We are not going to waste time ridiculing his every statement, though twould be eminently possible.
We will just share the following, and then get on to some of the other parts of the mag we deem worthy of our critical eye.
it is important to develop a thick skin in order to survive in the carpet and publishing worlds
There is no doubt evans is a lightweight writer and a complete airhead oriental rug commentator.
He knows absolutely nothing but the bare basics about either and while a keyboard can make anyones hunt and peckings readable it cannot transform worthless words into Hemingway quality prose.
Neither can it auto-correct bonehead opinions and kindergarten simplistic pseudo-expert attempts at forwarding rug studies.
That thick skin evans might be schlepping around with him is clearly weighing him down but this is not an issue. What might be is why he needs it?
The only person in rugDUMB who can even be considered sticking a sharp barb into mr evans sides is RK, there is no one else on the scene, or in its deep horizon.
So does evans really have or need a thick-skin considering he ignores RKs ribbings as one would an incessant bill collector or a handshake with a hot potato?
RK can only see this comment as a Freudian slip giving anyone with enough perception to deduce the next plot twist in a TV soap opera the picture evans is both insecure about his abilities as the editor of the sinking hali ship, and afraid for his future.
He should be and although we might be wrong here, we sincerely doubt it.
OK on to bigger and better fish to fry.
There is a several page spread on the opening of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto which caught RKs attention.
This is an institution, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, which could be a fantastic showcase to make the public aware of the historical importance and intriguing beauty of historic non-classical rugs, carpets and other related types of weavings like kelim and soumak.
However both of these institutions, and they are not the only ones, avoid the subject like the plague, something that can only be described as prejudice to the max.
Undoubtedly, this is a topic that rag hali should embrace as passionately as a drowning man would a life preserver.
But, Oh NO not them, forget that idea.
This see no evil attitude not only stinks, it makes giant hypocrites out of evans, his boss and that rag hali owner michael franses, and the rest those who toil there to maintain the ever stupid grin the happy face fake posturing they are interested in raising awareness for rugs and carpets demonstrates.
Plus, considering the vast majority of subscribers collect and are mainly interested in these types of weavings, the lack of leadership that rag hali exhibits in refusing to call attention to institutions like the Aga or the Mets inattention to these weavings is but one more black-eye hali magazine will eternally wear.
Until the Met, the Aga, and some almost as important art museums, like Detroit, Cleveland and others, are prodded into recognizing the contribution historic non-classical small-scale society weaving have played in the history of the oriental carpet their directors and curators will never get off their butts to do some real work on this subject.
It is just as easy to figure out why that rag hali does not speak up.
First they are afraid of doing anything to ruffle feathers.
Second there is nobody on the magazines staff, and that includes proven non-classical rug dummy michael franses, knowledgeable enough to make a powerful case, or even attempt to make one, why there are masterpieces among these peasant, aka tribal, weavings that are as worthy as an Ottoman or Safavid court carpet.
The third and probably the most significant reason is the lack of desire to begin the hard work of accumulating real scholarship and accompanying scientific evidence to prove masterpieces of equally venerable age and art hstoric importance to the court weavings exist.
Was there any truth to that rag halis decades of mouthing an alleged mission to be the premier agent to, and source for, making the art of the oriental carpet more widely known and appreciated they would have eons ago addressed this pertinent issue -- why the worlds first tier museums only exhibit rugs of the kings and their court ateliers and completely avoid equal recognition for indigenous small scale weavings.
RK expects more of that rag hali and its big mouthed promises.
We are sure would they ever take on such a mission, even if they failed, just doing so would advance recognition for this mostly overlooked area rug collecting.
One which has far, far more adherents than the classical carpet cadre will ever.
Speaking of science there is this highly interesting tidbit related to the curious silk-knotted pile rug illustrated on page 68.
Detail of the silk pile knotted rug on page 68
This rug was carbon dated by the RCD laboratory at Oxfordshire, England which is considered to be among the top C14 labs in the world, to be 1475 1640 AD with a 95% confidence rating.
However, subsequent intensive dye analyses proved the presence of numerous synthetic dyes with 100% confidence to date it to the 20th century.
This is just one more example of the unreliability of c14 testing for carpets and textiles.
Equally worth consideration, besides the fact one of the most well respected c14 labs goofed so drastically, is the excuse the author of this article, ben evans, tries to massage over this blunder.
So where does the clear conflict between two different analytic techniques leave the science? I cant wholly agreethat (carbon dating) has proved over the years to be the most reliable test of organic material we have, as there are too many caveats arising from the underlying science for anything younger than about the first half of the 17th century.
First off to even suggest, let alone state as evans does, there is any conflict between c14 dating, which is never 100% accurate and mostly far less, and dye testing which is 100% accurate is foolish.
And then to try to shore up respect for c14 dating by stating its underlying science has caveats for anything younger than the first half of the 17th century when this textile GOT a date way before that first half 17th century period is ludicrously transparent.
The c14 test failed miserably to date this knotted pile weaving and that is the only conclusion that can be drawn from this episode.
By the way no one trumpets c14 failures, like this one and others we know. All they ever write about is the alleged early dates it has given, many times with little to no certainty when compared to art historical analysis and other means of dating.
RK has been vocal for more than two decades c14 is of little to no use in carpet and textile studies. Intensive dye and fiber analysis are the way to go along with art historical analysis.
Here, on page 68, is just another proof we are totally correct.
We have remarked before, and do so again risking becoming redundant, the preponderance of articles about SE Asian textiles, new designer weavings and a smattering of others dealing with non-woven tribal arts to the great expense oriental rug, carpet and related Near Eastern weavings that for the past decade or more have filled the pages between that rag halis glossy covers.
There are two reasons for this. The first the magazine staffs aforementioned lack of oriental carpet expertise, and the second being the now ill-proven attempts by owner michael fransess to turn and morph that rag hali into a tribal arts publication.
This move has rational as the oriental carpet collecting community, that rag halis original audience, is shrinking year upon year while the tribal arts collecting universe is both far larger, more varied, and growing.
However, trying to keep a foot in the carpet world and one in tribal arts is a straddle that is impossible to achieve and all it has done is fragment both markets desires to support this magazine.
Saying it has turned that rag hali into a creature that is neither fish or fowl is correct. It is also readily apparent the ever-dwindling subscriber base totally agrees.
But michael franses has never been the brightest bulb on the rug collecting community Xmas evergreen, as his totally dumbass repurchase of that rag hali several years ago implicitly shows.
And his stubborn insistence in trying to resuscitate it will never succeed, and he will continue losing money trying.
Another bit of stupidity in the rug world mentioned in this issue is the coming lightweight pseudo-icoc event in August.
RK has already roasted this event in its own juices and we need not revisit it.
Readers can read our coverage here:
But we should draw attention to the growing reality, and unspoken fact, after the inaugural totally amateurish textile museum exhibition Unraveling Identities ends there will be no others planned for the foreseeable future.
This knocks a huge hole in chairman bruce, big mouth, baganzs constant duplicitous uttering how he has saved the textile museum and assured a glowing future for it.
While on the subject of the textile museum there is an in-depth portrait of its founder George Hewitt Myers in this issue.
Making it perfectly clear what a no-nonsense, self-assured and determined to succeed guy Myers was the article avoids the obvious and plain as daylight observation were Myers alive today he would never have allowed a bumbling bumkin like baganz and a board of directors filled with equally as feckless clods to have ruined his museum.
Time will tell if the textile museum can recover and ever hold a candle to the well-deserved reputation it had under Myerss leadership, or at least to the somewhat lesser one it maintained after him.
One thing is sure it will never, under the leadership of a clown like baganz and his motley crew of curatorial under achievers, surpass it.
The section of the magazine reviewing exhibitions does have some oriental carpet coverage but RK did not spy anything that any collector other than a newbie might learn something not already long known.
The auction review section is where it becomes blatantly clear the editor and staff cannot provide the required level of expertise to interest the knowledgeable and instruct those less so.
Giving credit where it is due tracing former appearances some items have had in the marketplace is perhaps the strongest category of comments offered.
Regrettably, everything else is down hill from there, and on a steep slope.
This issues failures begin with commentary on the supposed Mongol kelim sold at Christie London in April.
RK has already rebuked the auction house (see http://rugkazbah.com/boards/records.php?id=2652&refnum=2652) and that rag halis unsupportable claims this weaving is 13-14th century, made in the Tarim Basin and an important document in the history of central Asian weaving history.
Now in their review that rag hail's airheads claim this slit tapestry is a (missing) link between between the settled silk weavers of China and transhumant wool producing nomad cultures of the high steepes of Central Asia on its northwestern border (Ugur, Mongol, Tibetan Khitan).
Might sound good but the complete lack of any proof or shred of supporting documentation renders this as hollow as a used can of baked beans.
Trying to prove this and other assertions, like this flatweave demonstrates the fluid flow of iconography from east to west and well as west to east, fail just as horribly thanks to no documentation other than hearsay blah-de-blah.
Again, as we pointed out previously calling it a kelim is totally incorrect, the technical analysis makes clear it is tapestry woven replete with dovetail weft joins and not slit-tapestry the flat-weave technique of all kelim.
Continuing to make this error bodes poorly for that rag halis writer.
At the end of what is mostly a regurgitation of the auction catalogs worthless verbosity the writer mentions the 13/14th century dating is probably too generous and suggests the 15th century instead.
In trying to really understand this weaving RK would offer the writers statement the remarkably bright and clear colors for such an old weaving leads to our conclusion it is at best circa 1750, as those colors do not in any way have the subtle sophistication even 16th century weavings exhibit.
Also wed take a wild guess and state this tapestry was made in north-east India, as a commissioned gift for some trade or political purpose and not farther east as everyone else seems to want to believe.
The lotus flowers and peacocks iconography supply a covert message suggesting perhaps it was a peace offering.
This is complete guess-work on our part, but the bogusly assured statements of the auction house catalog and that rag hali presented are offered as something else (read facts), and as such need to be taken with a very large proverbial dose of salt.
Better make it a double.
RK had intended to offer comments on the Caucasian Turkish and Persian rugs featured but honestly our waning desire to pick them apart has faded but we will, since Turkmen weavings area major interest of ours, poke a stick or two at that rag halis take on some lots sold at the kurt munkasci sale.
The first Turkmen rug they chose for inclusion in this section was the S group main carpet sold at sotheby London some days after the munkasci sale.
Lot 247 S group MC sold at the sotheby Duchess of Roxburghe auction
We have already offered commentary about its sale (see here http://rugkazbah.com/boards/records.php?id=2672&refnum=2672) and are completely dumbfounded by this comment made in that rag hali.
We first saw this carpetwhen we literally stumbled on it, strewn carelessly on the floor of a side gallery during the previewApart from small losses to the ends, there is nothing wrong with the carpet that a good bath and the removal of the later fringes wont cure.
Now then, RK did not go to the preview or the sale so we have only the published pictures to go by.
But unless they were of different carpet the obvious wear, holes and abrasion this carpet has suffered surely cannot be missed or go unnoticed.
Well, that is by anyone who knows anything and has good enough vision to keep from falling down on every third step.
How the moronic that rag hali reviewer who wrote the above could possibly have been led to such conclusions about the condition of this S group carpet is unfathomable.
Looking carefully at the detail we once again publish is all the proof one would need to realize who ever from that rag hali stumbled over this carpet in the preview must have never opened it up.
Had they we are sure stating it just needs a bath and fringes removed would not have been their position.
What can we say other than you cant fix stupid.
Boasting the buyer should be laughing all the way home is a bit much, as this S group carpets actually condition is far from perfectly pleasing and it is, as the reviewer for that rag hali did correctly surmise not the earliest example.
These carpets, which formerly were extremely rare, have become common enough for every collector with the means to own one now able to cross them off their wish lists.
They are not particularly easy to sell, unless priced right, and the sotheby example made a fair price, definitely not a score worthy of laughing all the way home.
The first munkasci piece was lot 217 a good but surely not outstanding example of a Saryk engsi.
Rivaling only the standard Tekke type for the most boring and repetitive engsi, the Saryk engsi is nothing but a two dimensional affair.
We have yet to see one old enough to break the mold and possess any real charisma, forget about genuine historic connection.
They are formulaic to the max, and while munkascis was a better one of the type its price, compared to other places where one could have spent the 27,000 plus usd it made in the sale, was not a particularly good buy.
We therefore disagree with what that rag hali said The price it achieved was reasonable for both buyer and seller, representing good value with a possible upside given the speculative manner in which many approach their rug acquistions.
Fact is lot 217 was one of the few where munkasci got the better of the buying audience.
And what in blazing salads is the meaning of a possible upside given the speculative manner in which many approach their rug acquisitions?
Does that mean the wishing and hoping that fuels carpet buying speculators, not collectors? If so then that rag hali had best keep their own counsel, as we do not believe this Saryk engsi will prove in the short or the long run to be profitable speculation.
The next lot they took a shot at was the pair of white ground asmalyk that was in our opinion the best two lots in the sale.
There should be little doubt presenting them in separate lots was the best ploy to maximize return.
This was not lost on Austria Auctions but instead of the second piece selling for more, as is usually the case with an underbidder on the first now more determined to win one and the winning bidder even more so to complete the pair.
Things did not work out that way this time with the second lot selling for about 5,000 less than the first.
That rag halis review of these superior, very rare and quite beautiful asmalyk, as is often the case, did not offer anything other than the obvious.
Avoiding any mention, forget discussion, of the highly unusual 16 abstract ashik-tree like elements repeated in three horizontal rows drop repeated on the field.
Those ashik-tree appear to us to be a combination of the ones we recently discussed and illustrated in our S group engsi paper (see below) and two other rarely seen elem icons from two middle classic period Yomud engsi.
The Yomud engsi elem icon on the right being unique, we know of no other example.
Details of the rare ashik-tree elem icon from a late classic period Tekke engsi
Left: detail elem icon, middle classic period Yomud engsi; Right: detail elem icon nicknamed the lobster elem, middle classic period engsi; both unpublished, RK Collection
We sincerely doubt the munkasci asmalyk are earlier than either of these two Yomud engsi. We consider them to be early 18th century, but we can see the asmalyk being somewhat earlier than this Tekke engsi.
The rarity of the iconography expressed by these ashik-tree tells they are related and connected but just how or why remains totally unknown.
As we have explained many times before it is totally apparent, and logical, post 1700 Turkmen weavings began to exhibit serious degeneration, with both loss and accretion occurring.
All these ashik-trees probably owe their existence to these processes.
Lot 89, the battered but still worthy, kepse gol Yomud MC is the next lot the that rag hali reviewer picked-out for mention.
Frankly we do not see why, as there were far better choices for inclusion in the brief number mentioned.
Stating This old and regal Yomud main carpetfeaturing the often-misunderstood kepse gol pattern.few published examples rival it in terms of artistic meritit achieved a very reasonable price, a bargain for those interested in collecting beautiful woven documents from a glorious past..
This is complete dribble and the only reason it was chosen for mention is most likely because was purchased by someone whose attention that rag hali, perhaps franses himself, is trying to curry.
First, what pray tell is misunderstood about the kepse gol?
Second, we know a number of far better examples, both published and not; raving about this one is not at all borne out in comparison.
And third, the price was no bargain, nor could it be considered expensive. Thats what a battered, not best of type, circa 1800 Turkmen MC is worth in today market place.
Also if anything its the white ground small palmette and meander border that is the most interesting and meritorious element of this rug, not the kepse gols.
The last Turkmen weaving lot we will take a look at, one that was not in the munkacsi sale, is the Beshir saf fragment sold at Christie London in April, lot 114.
The reviewer dutifully notes the other fragments of this saf that have appeared on the market, the story which supposedly dates it to 1874, and the couple of related but earlier fragments in the same design that have appeared in the past decade or so.
What the review does not mention is the overblown recognition and importance, forget prices achieved, fragments of this saf have elicited.
While we agree it is pretty, arent most weavings with bright colors on a snowy white field, it is not interesting enough from any standpoint when compared to the earlier group of Beshir prayer rugs it clearly has been derived from and tries to emulate.
But that rag hali rarely if ever calls a spade a spade, preferring to gloss happy faces over just about everything they touch.
This is rugDUMBs biggest problem, the lack of genuine and intelligent peer review, and until it somehow manifests a presence, something we entirely doubt will happen in our lifetime, few will ever get the chance to know the difference between what is truly rare, important and wonderful and what is passed off as such by those in rugDUMB who are affiliated with the icoc, textile museum, and those like the commentators employed by that rag hali.