Detail archaic period Anatolian Kelim; RK Collection; published IMAGE IDOL SYMBOL: Ancient Anatolian Kelim, 1989, Plate 1
With a wary and jaundiced eye RK began to peruse issue 186, and with good reason. RK's readership knows we are not afraid to point our finger at the sheer self-gratifying, self-indulgent, self-appointed, self-anointed, hubris, which more than underlies just about every article, every editorial, every caption on just about every page.
This issue is no different.
Junior jimmy olsen editor ben evans writes in his editorial "As the old year closes, looking back over the past twelve months can provide a sense of comfort, even pride, in the past achievements, and allow one perhaps to look forward to the new year with excitement and confidence."
Yessshhh, what a pompous arse ben evans truly is. Yes, comfort for him in a job that requires little effort, with by the way no knowledge or prior training, and a far too generous salary however large or small it may be.
Mr Evans is a perennial rug dope, was when he started and will be the day big-boss-man michael franses finally bites the bullet, closes down the hali money drain, and kicks evans out into the land of hard knocks where a useless sod like him belongs.
Might RK ask bogus ben, since he did not list one achievement or piece of real pride he accomplished in 2015, to what is he referring?
Of course, there were none but the one thing he did learn since being made editor is to mouth hali-speak out of both sides of his yapper.
But, at least, according to evans's next sentence, he senses all is not well in rugDUMB.
Geezz who could possibly not, as to think things are hunkey-dorey you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind to miss the dwindling interest collectors are showing, the dwindling business dealers in collector rugs are doing, and the dwindling interest any institutions have in this art area.
These glaring facts will never be discussed in that rag hali by evans or anyone else, so whats wrong and why is he perturbed?
Something that is surely worthy of comment -- the possibility of the Textile Museum in Lyon, France being forced to close -- but not to the exclusion and deaf ear he and this magazine have shown to all the other far more important wrongs.
See it doesn't take a rocket scientist's IQ to realize if those other wrongs had been and were properly addressed years ago the French government, and the city of Lyon, would surely not want to, or even suggest, closing one of Europe's most important design museums.
But alas a dummy like evans couldn't put that two and two together and get it right if his next 12 paychecks depended on it. Lucky for him they don't.
To remedy the death spiral oriental rug and textile appreciation is stuck in requires vision and thought, any pencil pushing clod like evans can bemoan the situation in Lyon, but God forbid tackling the root issues that are responsible.
Lets mention just a few of the more glaring ones: a poor to downright horrible level of carpet scholarship; thievery and chicanery from the top down in the rugDumb fraternity; failure to encourage young collectors to get interested in both studying and collecting carpets; over-hyping almost every area of oriental rug activities and studies; allowing someone like dennis dodds to cheat, lie and connive in his public interactions with certain museums for only his benefit at the expense of everyone elses; failure to build a solid academic base for oriental rug studies; no actual honest peer review of any articles or books published on the subject of oriental carpets and textiles; the lack of any independent organization to vet and review dealer activities to assure the public of their honesty and ethics; etc, etc.
OK, enough of editorializing evans and his worthless, say nothing, scribbling. Onward and upward into the myopic miasma of that rag hali as we turn the pages.
Well, Glory Be, in the news and letters department yet another mention of jurg rageths long hyped book on Turkmen weavings that has the dubious distinction of being famous for creating the longest wait in all oriental rug literature sightings, that is if you discount Turkmen Studies Volume Two michael franses and robert pinner promised to deliver way back in the late 1970s, particularly to those who paid in advance for their never to have yet appeared copies.
Detail photo of a full pile Turkmen tentband accompanying that rag halis latest hype for the rageth book. If RKs memory serves us well this tentband was purchased at sotheby New York decades ago by Ebberhart Herrmann and if the gossip is correct was subsequently sold to hans sienknecht. RK has seen it in the flesh and we have some disturbing questions about it, who made it, and how old it really is. Perhaps those questions will be addressed by the c14 results we presume will be included in rageths long time coming opus.
It is far more than a decade rageth has been promising its publication.
Lets all remember rageth was a failed Anatolian kelim dealer who stitched up Heinrich Kirchheim and others by selling them hugely over-priced mediocre pieces and then morphed himself into becoming a carbon14 charlatan and author of a book promoting the science of dating Anatolian kelims with this process. One that is now regarded by everyone, except the kool-aid drunks, as being far less than reliable for carpets, kelim and textiles than rageth claimed and still claims.
This latest mention does leak some new details clearly meant to fan hoopla for a now heralded publication date 2016.
It will be a limited edition two volume work, ie that means expensive, both in English and German with 128 plates and 1,500 black and white illustrations.
RK already knows quite a bit about this book and the four main collections it will showcase the sienknecht, the munkasci, the hecksher, and the dhurle accumulation.
We are sure there will be some great pieces but we are even more sure there will be many ho-hummers and, worse, a far less than scholarly enlightened text.
After all rageth and his major supporter, side-kick and as we have heard it collaborator for this project, hans sienknecht, have so far never shown any real brilliance in their previous attempts to write about Turkmen weavings.
And if david dhurle is also involved in producing the text we can assuredly state although he might by now have developed a good enough eye to no longer buy mediocre and lesser pieces to satisfy his rampant rug-lust, he has never expressed his thoughts about Turkmen weavings publicly and since RK has spent a goodly number of hours with him we can vouch for the fact this has a good reason: He has nothing to say.
RK will be delighted to finally see rageths Turkomania magnum opus get published and hope his failing health will not fail him before it is published otherwise we wont have the chance to give him a well earned jolly sendoff to his just hereafter.
And just to make it clear RK has no love for jurg rageth, someone who crossed us long ago. We have not forgotten his unbridled greed, avarice and malice towards us after we provided the essential help he needed to organize and put-on the Basel Anatolian Kelim meeting that put him on the map.
Among other slights at the last minute rageth reneged on his offer to allow RK to give a short talk at the planned meeting, as well as to introduce James Mellaart before his.
Seems rageth thought better of it once he secured the help he needed.
By the way, it was only at our urging and with our support James Mellaart, the star speaker and major drawing card of the event, agreed to appear.
So there is no love lost between RK and carpet-bagger rageth, who made a career that began by swindling collectors and has finished by bamboozling some rich Turkmen rug collectors, like sienknecht, munkasci, hecksher and dhurle, into paying for C14 testing he made 25 % commissions on, and since has made a living by their paying for the publication of this long promised tome.
Be sure when it is published we will go over it carefully and praise where praise is due, and critique where critique is required.
Best of luck, mr rageth, make sure what you write is better than the text accompanying your C14 and Anatolian Kelim books blah-da-blah.
Turning more pages we see the by now, hey hasnt it ever been since WWI, hackneyed and droll carpets in paintings meme will make another (gosh really) appearance.
This time its not the Metropolitan Museum of Art plying this already far too over-worked ploy, its none other than moshe tabibnia, the rug dealer with the too big to fail gallery.
Far from fact will ever be that moshe tabibnia does anything innovative or of lasting merit, rather than just attempts to bolster the bottom line of his one client gallery.
Best of luck, tabibnia, youll need more than a well-tailored 2,500 euro suit and undertakers smile to catch another big fish, but take it from us showing rugs in conjunction with old paintings aint gonna bring another Zaleski through your front door.
That was a once in a lifetime score, and here's a little free bit of advice if youre gonna bother to show paintings and rugs to try and get whale clients its now far better to show Rothkos than Tintarettos. Wake up, spaghetti-bender, contemporary is in and old masters are out, way out
Speaking of droll and repetitious this issue AGAIN devotes many pages to Ignazio Vok and his ongoing collection sale at rippon-boswell. Of course the hype for the sale is hidden under the guise of meet the collector. What a bunch of horse-shit as Vok the collector has already been profiled ad nauseum, he had nothing interesting to say then and has nothing new to add now.
First off we see a pictures of Vok and michael franses circa 1990 sitting in front of a large medallion suzani.
Photo of Michael franses and Ignazio Vok, circa 1990. To us it looks like franses just sold the large medallion suzani to Vok for a record price and he is smiling like a cat that just caught a juicy fat mouse. Vok, on the other hand, is also smiling but his smile looks constrained, in fact he looks like he is ready to jump up off the chair and bolt to escape before letting franses dig deeper into his wallet.
OK, suzani are pretty and the older ones, probably dating back to the end of the 18th century, are rare, easy to love and look at weavings.
But really now, are they great art? Do they have historic importance? Are they true cultural products or workshop/marketplace items? Did the makers produce them in culturally sheltered environments or in towns and cities where they were almost factory produced.
The scholarship says the suzani are basically not real cultural patrimony with a long history but rather opulent decorative status items.
The patterns were always drawn on the ground cloth by traveling itinerant designers and most probably the best examples were rarely if ever the work of brides, whose trousseau these embroideries were originally destined, but rather hired professional embroiderers.
So while the best of them, and Vok has a small handful of these and far more lesser ones, are beautiful and charming they have no real iconographic content and power or historical connection, three attributes RK demands in our collecting ventures.
These attribute we consider having more import than likeability or charm.
So we gritted our teeth and delved into reading another interview with Vok.
What did we learn?
Seems his newest fawning interviewer, Markus Voigt, like those who have gone before and sat down with Vok cant help but mention the lavish coming-out parties Vok gave for his suzani and kelim collections.
That was several decades ago and what the frick does it have to do with his selling out today? Obviously nothing, but it does give Voigt the chance to inform readers Vok has sold his castle and the vineyard but still has in his new digs a vast wine cellar filled with deer stag heads and antlers.
I only shot one a year says Vok who probably collected those trophies with the same killer instincts he bagged suzani and kelim.
Just joshing, folks, because we are sure just like (supposed) experts udo hirsch and jurg rageth who stitched Vok up by leading him to purchase a bunch of lesser than great Anatolian Kelim, Vok probably had somebody else load, point the rifle and perhaps pull the trigger to kill those defenseless stags.
And killing even just one a year is too many.
Oh Yeah, what goes around comes around and Voks using bullets to take advantage of those poor unfortunate stag is just like hirsch and rageth used his gullibility in their alleged Anatolian Kelim savvy to take advantage of him.
Only difference being Voks head didnt end up on anyones wall, well at least not just yet.
In keeping with Voks previous interviewers, johnny eskenazi and detlef maltzahn, Markus Voight stresses the mythical sagacious advice the supposed accomplished textile collector Ignazio Vok can impart to other collectors.
This, like big foot or the Loch Ness monster, might be the most talked about part of the Vok myth but in keeping with Nessie and big-foot its never been seen.
Well, maybe not if you consider Voks lighter than air advice trust your instincts go with your heart evaluate carefully and take your time to be on par with grainy out of focus photo-shopped pics in the National Enquirer.
Now those comments are really informative tidbits aspiring young collectors could really sink their teeth into, huh?
And dont forget this Vok bon mot dont listen too much to others something RK knows for a fact he should followed instead listening to hirsch and rageth about buying all those lesser and mediocre Anatolian kelim.
By the way, he did far better with the suzani his other advisors led him to as unlike the absence of any real masterpiece Anatolian or other Kelim in his collection Vok did manage to acquire a few first rate suzani.
Lets face facts here Ignazio Vok is and was nothing but another armchair collector with a fat wallet stuffed with daddys money regardless of what the shining press that rag hali, and the auctioneer who is selling his collection and stands greatly to benefit by creating and fanning the myth of Vok: A Great Collector, have tried to establish.
And like others of his ilk who come to mind, for instance peter hoffscheister, when the spotlight shines on Ignazio Vok he has nothing to say about his collection other than what is trifling and trite, same goes for his giving advice that is valueless.
Voigt can try his hardest by inferring all the other art areas Vok is supposedly an uber collector in, but when the rubber hits the road the following quote tells anyone with an IQ over 100 what Signor Vok is all about. But Ignazio wouldnt be himself if he hadnt allowed himself a little treat: having long admired pieces of antiquity in museums, he used the proceeds of the first textile auction to buy himself the stone head of a Greek hero.
Guess he didnt want those cute suzani and mediocre Anatolian Kelim hanging around anymore, especially when he could ramp up his collecting level and own a Greek stone head.
This, surely, brings up a number of questions like why didnt Vok use a bit of the proceeds from selling his castle and vineyard, which according to gossip must have been worth dozens of times what the first auction netted him, to buy the Greek stone head?
Frankly, RK could care less about little richy rich Ignazio Vok, his decision to bail out of the carpet and textile world by selling his mediocre Anatolian Kelim collection and his pretty but so what suzani, his lighter-than-air words of advice, his bogus rational of wanting to scatter those collections to the wind to give young collectors the chance to own his in reality over-hyped cast-off treasures, his equally bogus reputation as a great collector that is nothing more than more hype, etc, etc.
To end our appreciation of the facts and not the fantasy of Ignazio Vok, RK would like to wonder out loud what he will use the proceeds from Part Two of his collection sale?
Might we just propose he atones for his useless killing of those cut down in the prime of their lives stags and donate the proceeds to several animal shelters and nature parks.
Then he can arrange for his own head to be mounted on his wine cellar walls near the stags, or perhaps hed prefer close to the stone Greek heros head, for all his present and future obsequious, bootlicking interviewers and admirers to nod their heads at this, the final act of a truly great collector.
Turning more pages we spy a big advert by moshe tabibnia gallery and once again cannot help remembering moshe telling us in 2006 I dont have to advertise, and never do especially in hali.
Can we remind him never say never cause maybe the future might find you in dire need when your one client game plan starts to falter and finally fails.
Plus Mr. moshe I dont ever sell fragments I sell entire pieces tabibnia your advert shows a fragment, albeit a beautiful slice of a mid-17th century Indian Mughal pile carpet.
By the way its from the Wher, aka DallOlio, Collection tabibnia bought and is now, if the gossip is correct, choking badly on and having mucho trouble trying to resell.
Say hello to that new morning, moshe.
The 12 page spread on Coromandel coast Chintz textiles looks like it has some legs but since RK, and we are sure almost all of halis core readership, has no interest in, or is desirous of becoming interested in them, one can easily wonder not why they published it, but why they spent 12 pages instead of a nice summary over two or three pages?
To RK this shows a distinct lack of professional editorial judgment, and worse a dismal understanding of what to present to retain interest from its real readership and forget all the failed pretences of trying to appeal to others outside that small circle.
Next up for comment is another long article by hans konig, a stalwart in that rag halis stable of contributors, pontificating on the ubiquitous trefoil.
According to konig Anatolia seems to have been the cradle of the trefoilthe first trefoilsurrounds the two octagons of the large pattern Holbein rug....
After this laughable false start konig then rambles on for 12 pages about the trefoil and various rugs that utilize it as an ancillary motif.
But he never hits the nail on the head, or even stretches to try to, about its true art historical origins.
So for the old fossil hans konigs benefit, and anyone else who is interested, let RK set the record straight.
The trefoil was undoubtedly developed from what RK has proven to be an at least 20,000 year old icon: The indented-shape female idol.
Terracotta figurine c. 6,500 BC from Gladnice, southern Yugoslavia, pg. 53, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, M. Gimbutas
Here is our abbreviated discussion of this important icons history, from the Weaving Art Museum Archaeology and Anatolian Kelim exhibition.
Another greater mistake is konigs statement the trefoil seems to have been unknown to Turkmen weavers. There is only one Turkmen piece known to me whose attribution is still being discussed which has a trefoil.
Open yer peepers Herr konig, RK knows far more than just one. In fact we know more than several torba, chuval and main carpet with trefoils.
And even if that rag hali has no one who knows a lot about Turkmen iconography it should at least have someone capable enough to notice the prominent trefoil border on the eagle group main carpet cited in the marketplace auction results section of this issue.
Multi-gol Turkmen MC with trefoil inner minor border
Thats what editors are for, but a junior jimmy olsen wannabe one obviously cant cut the mustard enough to tell a writer like konig what a boo-boo he has done.
So back to the drawing board for myopic Herr konig on that point, and probably others we could find but since his writing is quite verbose and generally laborious to read well let him off the hook and resist further examination.
Now some praise:, Tied for the best article in issue 186 is curator at the Berlin Museum Julia Gonnellas retelling of How Islamic at came to Berlin and its champion Frederich Sarres role.
It a rare occurrence for this type of interesting, informative and pertinent carpet-centric article to find its way between that rag halis covers.
Might this remind them to endeavor making such an article not such an infrequent happening.
The review of Walter Dennys newest publishing effort The Carpet and the Connoisseur : The James F Ballard Collecton of Oriental Rugs is another in the groove article.
RK is not going to comment on what Daniel Shaffer, the only rug-brain left on the staff, has to say about Dennys text, as RK intends on sooner or later do our own review of the book.
We might at that time revisit what Shaffer said.
Another worthwhile read, and the other tied for best in this issue, is the review of Fabrications: The Fabric of India exhibition which recently closed (Jan 10th 2016) at the Victoria and Albert Museum
The V and A has a great collection of weavings from the Indian subcontinent thanks to Englands domineering role in making a colony of this large country.
This exhibition shows some of their greatest masterpieces, as well as many from other international collections.
Just as an aside the Kashmir kani tapestry-twill shawl(illustration 3), more properly referred to as a mans body wrap as its three meter length is far too large to just encircle ones shoulders, is a weaving we know well.
Kashmir tapestry-twill mans wrapper, V&A Museum Collection, illustration 3
At one time RK had the world greatest collection of early Kashmir tapestry-twill weaving, some of them are pictured in the Weaving Art Museum Tapestry Flowers exhibition, and the V and A Museum India departments reserve collection was a much favored haunt of ours during the later 1970s to early1980s when we were working on a book about them and spending a big bit of time in London.
In fact back then the Keeper of the V&As Textile Study Room, where the reserve collection of Kashmir tapestry-twill weaving was kept, Sheila Tyers, became quite a good friend of ours.
And when in 1980 that grifter frank ames first visited the Textile Study Room he asked Sheila if she knew someone who could help him understand and learn about Kashmir shawls. She gave him our name and phone number in New York and several weeks later ames called, asked to meet us, and then showed up at our door.
Little did we realize over the several long visits he made with us that our sharing information and our research with him, showing him our collection, and telling him about the book we were working on would give him the impetus and idea to do a book on his own.
But we were not the only one ames cheated and bamboozled on his way to Kashmir shawl fame.
Monique Levi-Strauss, a close friend of ours and the wife of world renown anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss, also shared her knowledge, information and research on European Shawls with ames.
He did exactly the same thing to her that he did to RK, and used this information in his own publication, which he rushed to print to beat us to the punch.
Unlike RK, her efforts did result in a publication (in 1988) titled The Cashmire Shawl.
But when amess book came out some years before, in 1985, she and I had a long conversation about how frank ames pretended to be a new interested collector while entirely hiding his plans to do a book.
Had he been honest with either of us we surely would not have shared all the information which had taken us many years to collect, nor would we have shown him our collections or taught him about shawls.
BTW prior to his Kashmir shawl maneuverings ames had been a closet/bedroom dealer of American quilts.
Anyway, during that period circa 1980 we were working on a Kashmir tapestry-twill weaving book, which never did get published, but 20 years later when we ghost wrote many of the chapters in the parviz nemati Shawls of the East from Kerman to Kashmir publication some of the (still to this day) unpublished manuscript we produced finally did see the light of day.
We only mention this to bona fide our opinion the V and As shawl is not 17th century but rather a later circa 1775 genre period reproduction.
The bell-ringer giveaway is the narrow border, a well done but stiff and far from as dynamic version of the classic one found on genuine pre-1700 example.
Also the large flower sprigs in the broad pallau(main border field) are likewise stiff and rather two dimensional. They lack the lifelike, colorful and far more lively dynamics genuine 17th century weavings display in their wide pallau end panels.
Left: Detail Kashmir tapestry-twill woven mans wrap early 18th century, Victoria and Albert Museum Collection; Right: Detail Kashmir tapestry-twill woven mans wrap circa 1625-1650; ex-RK Collection whereabouts presently unknown
RK is positive some readers will misjudge our comments in this review to be nasty or snide, but far from it is the reality.
Truthful commentary whether laudatory or critical should be equally judged and appreciated. Well that is providing there is factual basis.
And although we well realize were we to write, as is often found on the pages of that rag hali, politically correct hyperbolic praise we seriously doubt anyone would find it disturbing.
But because we tell it like it is, and do so with documentation and fact, this truth is hard for many people to accept.
Also we realize our telling the truth few people know about an incompetent editor like ben evans, a greedy kelim dealer failure like jurg rageth, and a snake in the grass con man like frank ames might seem harsh and cruel.
But since it is the truth, and RK not only talks the talk but we walk the walk, we could care less if anyone is offended.
This is one of the main problems in rugDUMB, failure to censure miscreants and to allow them to continue their cheating ways that along with a lack of peer review and honest critique prevents any real level playing field for anyone but the most knowledgeable and capable.
Plus the dire need to remedy this situation has been apparent for decades and still no one other than RK will stand up and publicly call out those who perpetrate dishonest acts, or criticize the all too obvious wrongs and nonsense that pervade carpet studies and the antique carpet business.
Let us make it clear once again we are not interested in being rugDUMBs policeman but we are interested in being an impartial arbiter, all that we do here on RugKazbah.com is in that vein and direction.
As for that rag hali?
It has definitely passed its prime and there is no way it will become more successful by continuing along the path it is traveling. Its time for michael franses, the owner, to rethink both its mission and the way it tries to fulfill that mission.
Failing to do so does nothing other than giving a clod like ben evans a job and franses an inside seat in the carpet business.
After all when selling tours has become a major preoccupation and producing a magazine is but an ancillary pursuit to that preoccupation what do you expect?