Home > The Beat Goes On >China Dreams, Alexander Rugs: RK on new hali mag
Tue, Jan 30th, 2018 05:40:16 AM
Topic: China Dreams, Alexander Rugs: RK on new hali mag

Seljuk period saf; TIEM Museum Istanbul

The latest issue of that rag hali is out and RK just finished thumbing through it.

Without getting into a raft of particulars we can assuredly say the reason for the magazines new focus on Chinese rugs, its publishing this and several to come issues in Chinese, appears on the surface to be motivated by the burgeoning continued transfer of wealth from west to east.

This is surely something but there is, as things always are and have always been with this magazines publishers, another covert and hidden reason unknown to all but the most savvy insider.

Lucky for RugKazbah.com readers RK can once again spill the beans and as always let you all in to behind the scene machinations of rugDumb.

See, michael franses that rag halis owner has interests in, but does not own, a large collection of Chinese weavings he presents as his. He has been trying to peddle them for his partner, the real owner, for years. So far without any success.

So you can bet your bottom dollar this push to try and enter the Chinese market, stimulate interest in antique Chinese weaving, and in general try to raise awareness -- gee, where has RK heard that phrase before for them and other rug types is nothing but a gambit for franses to find, finally, a buyer, or buyers, for that collection.

RK is willing to bet dollars to donut holes this push will be unsuccessful. No market for antique rugs, Chinese or any other type, will be developed, at least in his lifetime, and fransess desires, and dire financial need, to sell that collection will likewise remain unfulfilled.

To say michael franses is a one trick pony is to give him too much credit. He is a poor businessman, a crappy promoter, and worse except for classical rugs, and there he is far from and not in the upper eschelons of connoisseurship, basically a rug-know-little.

Only a fool would have bought that rag hali back from Sebastian Ghandchi and his wealthy boy friend backer. It was, and still is, patently clear the magazine was on the downward slide, regardless of the other areas -- book publishing and tour organizing it has developed to help to pay the bills and keep the lights on.

Thinking he could turn it around was as foolish a thought as believing he could once again, as he did in his first go-round as its owner, use that rag hali for his own commercial purposes. What worked for michael franses then surely aint working for him now.

But listen: Let RK not be put in the position to nix any good that could come from attempts to open up a market in China and other far eastern countries for antique and historic oriental rugs. However, we do know enough to predict this effort is a shot in the dark that will, forget about a bullseye, not even come close to hitting that target.

Just like thinking a devoted base of collectors, and widespread interest in carpets would have happened in the Persian Gulf and Emerates region, so too nothing will happen as it did there with this newly minted push to China.

Carpet collecting is too demanding a sport and players avoid it for just that reason, as well as the dire lack of provenance, signatures, scientific research, or any real indicators for what makes one weaving valuable and another which looks similar, but really isnt, not.

The scratch on the surface publishing a few issue of this magazine in Chinese, and maybe doing an exhibition or two or a sales event there, will have no long lasting effect. And franses is once again a dunce to think his puny attempt will open the door to the vast market China and other neighboring countries could become.

OK, enough about the reason behind this issue, lets take a few minutes to demonstrate for the umpteenth time what a rug clod editor ben evans cant help himself from being, and also look at the magazines continuing coverage of the Christopher Alexander London auction last November.

To RKs enduring amazement ben aka jimmy olsen evans has still yet to learn either he does not know anything about early carpets and keep his yapper shut or actually go and learn something. This continues to be perenially displayed whenever evans tries to pontificate or really tries to act as an editor and not as an empty tin conduit for fransess less than brilliant ideas or views about historic carpets.

In this issues editorial evans boasts about his full schedule of traveling the world from event to event for his job:While there are some common and obvious themes that connect these events, it was not until an opportunity in Japan presented itself that I was able to make mental connections or establish aesthetic links between objects I had seen in the intervening months.

Is this guy so brain-dead to believe the sudden gestalt he speaks about is anything but more rug-idiocy. Read on and find out the answer. PS: Its a definite YES.

Having seen so many important textiles over such a short period, it was not until I was waiting for a connection in Helsinki and looking through images on my emails that several connections emerged between objects.

Hmmm, sounds like there might be something interesting here. But, alas, it is just more fools-gold from a hapless junior jimmy olsen, surely nothing from Superboy, forget a Superman.

Now get this: The first was between one of the Alexander Konya prayer (ed. shown below on the right) rugs at Sothebys London (lot 121, see Auction Report this issue) and one of the safs in the TIEM(ed. shown above in its entirety and a detail below on the left), on view during the highly successful Istanbul Carpet Week (1-5 October 2017, see Dialogue this issue). The connection between the two is clear, and makes the prayer rug potentially one of the oldest village singleniche(sic) rugs known, if, as it appears, it is from the same time as the saf, which could be dated without too much controversy to the 16th century. This was later confirmed when, unprompted, one of the rugs former owners expressed the same view.

Left: Detail TIEM saf; Right: Alexander collection lot 121

Come on now, jimmy, you need to blow that whistle and get Superman to come save you from this ridiculous comparison you have just gotten your stupid, dumbass, self involved in. Plus that former owner is none other than michael fransesimagine that!

Number one the Alexander prayer rug is nowhere near the same age as the TIEM example, only a rug-moron could possibly say so. Besides that, on every other level the TIEM rug is so superior there is no arguable basis to claim otherwise. Well, that goes for anyone who is knowledgeable, honest and not trying to forward any agenda.

If you cant tell the difference between Alexanders at best late 18th century, though we feel it is circa 1800, workshop western Anatolian copy and a true 15th century historic masterpiece of Anatolian weaving art you had better be muzzled. Yeeesshhh, what a mbecile. You cant make this type of horrendous reportage up, its truly unbelievable.

But then again ben evans knows next to nothing and, we are sure, is just acting as that conduit we mentioned above.

Let RK explain further.

Many, many moons ago michael franses was the owner of the Alexander prayer rug and in fact sold it to Chris way back when. We can remember franses proudly showing it to us when he first acquired it, and our not at all equally enthusiastic and favorable reaction.

So it is no wonder evans is now spouting the same stupid assertion michael franses tried to lay on us back then, and one which he undoubtedly used to sell it to Alexander that this rug is genuinely old and not the late genre copy RK will again bet dollars to donut holes it is.

Again, to be clear, we told both of them in no uncertain terms this prayer rug was late, ugly, a genre copy; and whats more nothing but a piece of junk we would not pee on were it on fire.

Whoever was the underbidder, we all know michael dead-eye black was the buyer, was at least as lost in the sauce as franses and evans. For were this rug actually 15th century, or even 16th century, it would have sold for TEN TIMES the 75,000 pounds it made in the sale.

Lets be 100% clear here: This rug according to RK is not worth 10,000 pounds because it is artistically and historically worthless. Period, end of any intelligent discussion.

And anyone who would like to debate its merits with us is more than welcome to try, but know in advance we will shred any argument or reason mounted it is defense.

RK has long maintained michael franses is as lost as little Bo-peep when it comes to Anatolian village weavings and any other type of non-cassical non-workshop product. His woefully mistaken purchase of it, his opinion this rug is anything but a late genre copy, as well as his representing countless other equally late and worthless workshop rugs as much earlier, proves this in spades.

Need proof: Lets all remember RKs Gunther Raps expose of fransess absurd over-dating and over-rating the group of rugs he now claims is his collection when in fact and in truth are all are left-overs from his now shuttered gallery inventory. He has been completely unsuccessful in his efforts, like those he tried with Gunther, to pawn any of them off on anyone foolish enough to think his spiel is anything but useless and worthless patter.

Just like evans trying to make the case for lot 121, the ex-michael franses/Alexander prayer rug, having any relationship with the TIEM masterpiece, other than the fact both were woven in Anatolia, is as dumb as his believing he could blow on a plastic whistle and have Superman come save him. What a dope.

The second connection evans aims to draw was a realisation of the remarkable universality of Indian textile patterns, so much so that in many places they have almost lost connection to their country of origin. Such unusual associations abound in the world of carpets and textiles, where intangible cultural links are a constant reminder of the surprising interconnectedness of our past histories.

Well, at least here his comment is accurate. However, it is so generic and broad even a dummkof like evans could not miss to make a point, regardless how meaningless it is.

Enough of jimmys straining to play editor, lets take a quick jaunt and examine that rag halis continuing attempts to place the Alexander auction in its proper perspective.

RK has already commented on the distinctly variable age and quality of the rugs Alexander collected, and the lack of real discernment buyers at the sale exhibited.

Surely there is no accounting for taste and personal likes and dislikes. But, however accurate this truism is, it does not have anything to do with connoisseurship, which is something that actually exists on a higher plane somewhere well above personal preference and opinion. One may not like something but if it is, or is not, a masterpiece unbiased connisseurship can and will acknowledge it as such.

It is often said about rug collecting that if you show a rug to ten experts you will get ten different opinions. This is almost always the case, however, it avoids the central issue -- probably nine or even all ten of those supposed experts are not actually experts.

Some long time ago there was an online discussion about who is a rug expert and why. A number of criteria degrees, academic affiliations, publications, awards were bandied about but when RK chimed in that all of these academic criteria were meaningless in this field because there is no genuine peer review and a self-appointed clique is in charge this point was ignored. So accolades and degrees are meaningless. Rugs are very hard to learn about and besides book learning a certain a priori instinct is required.

What we believe shows who is an expert and who is not is who has made a collection of masterpieces or responsible for having made one for someone else; someone who has been ahead of and responsible for new and original ideas; and someone who has been on the forefront of the trends that characterize rug collecting in our time.

Its easy to talk the talk and act like an expert but hard to walk the walk and prove it. Regrettably most so-called respected experts have little to no skin in the game, their progostications and proclamations are more often than not soon proven incorrect, invalid and in general better quickly forgotten. Proof is in the pudding and judging experts on this basis immediately separates the few men from the gaggle of talking-head pundits.

This expert thing brings us back to the Alexander collection auction and one of the two highest priced rugs in the sale, lot 78.

Left: Lot 78 erroneously called Seljuk long rug fragment; Alexander collection; Right: detail of field trellis

This imposter sold for the same price as the pink panther, something RK found amazingly unbelievable. We could spend paragraphs explaining why we date this rug to circa 1800 or at best second half of the 18th century. Frankly we do not have the patience to spoon-feed what should be as obvious as the nose on the face of the buyer michael dead eye black.

That said we will pose two pertinent reasons for our position.

First: The is no Seljuk period rug with a border that is so simplistic and uncomplicated. Just on this basis alone, regardless of the fact Alexander believes there was originally a now missing larger outer border, claims this rug is 15/16th century are beyond highly questionable. They are virtually impossible to credence.

There is a second, perhaps even more convincing fact that denies this rug is anything but 1750-1800. In the detail above notice the red arrow. It points to one of the many areas where the articulation of the field design is sloppy, irregular and wonky. Go study the small group of rugs that can be rightfully be called Seljuk and dated to the 15th century. You will immediately see how exact, mathematical and methodical their drawing is. Something the weaver of lot 78 just could not attain.

The fact evans, and michael franses behind him, are unable to figure out this rug is nothing but another later genre copy is par for their course, and one which can only be seen as an embarrassment.

Several other of the higher priced Alexander collection lots were mentioned in the special auction report supplement in this issue. We offer a few comments to counter the rah-rah that rag hali tries to pass off as cogent analysis.

Well begin with the lots 63,64 and 65 which RK monikered the triplets since they all shared such similarities one could almost suspect they came out of the same womb.Be careful here and do not suspect we believe they actually did so, or were produced at the same time. Wed venture to say there is about a century between the earliest, lot 65 and the youngest lot 63, with lot 64 sitting in the middle timewise.

Heres what that rag hali has to say about them.

Displayed together in the sale preview, a trio of fragmented 17th-century or earlier central Anatolian (Konya and Karapinar) medallion carpets (lots 36(sic), 64 and 65) that would not have been out of place on the walls of one of the great Turkish museums, were underestimated at 5,500-7,500, 4,500-6,500 and 7,000-10,000 respectively. All three were sold to the New York collector. The first cost him 56,420 ($73,960), with a Turkish dealer as the under-bidder in the room. For the second, a Konya with a beautifully balanced composition (4), he saw out strong competition online and in the room from the US collector who bought the Konya column prayer rug, in the end paying 125,000 ($164,350). The third, unmistakably Karapinar, with green-ground tree spandrels, cost him 112,500 ($147,915).

Mistaking lot 63 for 36 was the least of the errors RK can point out. Calling these rugs equal to those in the Turkish museums might be true but it is misleading because the majority of early rugs in their collections (Vakiflar and TIEM) are substantially better in all respects. Compared to them Alexanders triplets pale, and their auction results show this within the confines of its esablishing a $406,000 top end result for the pink panther.

This said RK opines that price was way too cheap and therefore in comparison these seem righteous. But, in fact, the prices these four rugs, the pink panther and the triplets made were far more reasonable, and in reality cheap, compared to what they really should have sold for, as well as compared to what other lots in the sale made like lot 78.

The best and earliest of the triplets, lot 65, was unfortunately defaced having its central medallion and upper right side completely obliterated and missing.

Lot 65

This is the main reason RK could not recommend its purchase at any price. It was just too damaged to like and if we would have bought it we would immediately cut it up into three large sections. This would make appreciating its beauty far more possible versus seeing the whole that is grossly not whole.

Colorewise it displayed the rich dyes early pre-1750 Anatolian Village rugs are famous for. But its design, both medallion, field and borders, was not equally commendable. As charming as the green ground spandrels are, the rather boring and simplictic hook trees they contain leave us unimpressed. This, and the somewhat flaccid and unsubtle rendition of the main border meander, in spite of the again charming in this case purple ground color, strike us similarly.

This is a really good rug, dont mistake our critical assessment, and for the price it made surely on the reasonable side. However, itss just not a great one, even if it were complete. We could go on showing why but we made out point and lets move on.

Lot 64, the next of the triplets has an attempt to demonstrate the crisper look lot 65 just doesnt achieve.
Lot 64

But, its only an attempt, as this rug also falls short on this aspect. Plus it does not have the brilliant in your face coloration of lot 65. It outsold lot 65 by a tad, $164,350 to $147,915, which again is in our eyes something that could have been a wider margin. We prefer this to lot 65 but in the final analysis neither of them float our boat and we just could not recommend their purchase as both have such obvious deficiencies when compared to the pink panther, and even more when compared to any of the great much earlier masterpieces of Anatolian Village carpet weaving art in the Turkish Museums.

And lot 63, the runt of the litter, has so many deficiences -- the somewhat ungainly proportions, the packed out with too many ornament field and the rather ordinary coloration we just could never get behind reccommending it at any price.

Lot 63

Our far more critical critique of these rugs stands basically completely opposite to that rag halis, not only because we have no axe to grind like they do to reassure rugDUMB all is fine and dandy with a sale like Alexanders but more significantly because we know a whole lot more than they do.

Once more should they or anyone else wish to try us out wed welcome the opportunity to prove it. Nuff said bout that.

We do heartily agree the Village column prayer rug, lot 29, was a superior weaving, second only to the pink panther in importance.

Lot 29

It was the bargain of the sale and congratulations to the new owner.

We also do not agree with that rag hali calling lot 65 an unmistakable Karapinar, as there is nothing but hot air in this overworked sobriquet. Wed place it in Konya proper. Same goes for lot 64 which they call Konya but wed place farther east to the Aksaray-Nevsehir-Nigde triangle region.

The last lot we will briefly examine is another imposter, lot 85, ridiculously called Karapinar, something that undeniably shows the absurdity of attaching this ubitquitous provenance to so many completely different weavings.

Lot 85

Dated in the catalog 18th century or earlier is something that rag hali avoids mentioning, but RK is not afriad to suggest it is no earlier than early 19th century. Perhaps the reason for it going undated in their review is the fact it once long ago belonged to michael franses who sold it to Alexander. Besides the fact it is stuffed full of new repairs, this rug is nothing but a two-dimension miserably ugly workshop confection. A must to avoid at any price.

By the way if our memory serves us well when franses showed it to us he claimed it was 17th century which is something Alexander swallowed whole. Our condolences to the new owner dead-eye michael black.

So thats it for us but we will once again enlighten both that rag hali staff and our reasdership sometime after April 24th 2018 when the second and last installment of the Christopher Alexander collection hits the auction block.

Stay tuned

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