Friedman Benda gallery hangs Baluch rugs
Collector interest and prices for Baluch pile rugs, and some of their flatweaves, have come along way in the past three decades, as anyone who follows rugs at auctions well knows.
And although RK is surely no fanboi, or even an interested party, we do recognize a miniscule percentage are old enough and interesting enough to justly command even our interest and the new price levels they occassionally achieve.
We did not mention beautiful enough as well because we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is not really a provable aspect worth debate.
On the ladder of financial worth Baluch weavings have always been at rugDUMBs bottom. This, of course, was, and still is, one of their most important selling points, as it allows less well-healed collectors, who were not weathy enough to buy Turkmen, Caucasian and Turkish examples, to form collections.
In the past decade, though, even the lowly Baluch pile weavings have shown they, too, can at times command eye-opening sales, or at least asking, prices.
RK is not going to debate if this newly found price structue is justified. Nor are we interested in hearing arguments on either side of this question. What is, is, and far be it for anyone to cheerlead or denigrate the price someone is willing to pay, or to ask.
No doubt the number of publications devoted to Baluch weavings has played a major role in this price increase, as well as increasing the number of collectors. These books and articles naturally provide a strong and understandable basis for this new market and its adding at least one zero, and occassionally even more, onto yesterdays old price structure.
We all know there is no shortage of later Baluch rugs. The same can be said for post midle 19th century Turkmen, Caucasian and Turkish(Anatolian) weavings.
But when it comes to significantly earlier examples, especially those that are best of type or with particularly rare designs and/or unusual materials, its another ball of wax for sure
All these weaving areas demonstrate the same equation there are not many choice examples available. Always was and always will be. So when they appear it is beyond doubt they will generate wide interest, and often surprising prices.
There is one important factor, however, that separates rare, early Baluch rugs from those others. Can you guess what that is?
Simply put its the fact the iconography found on these Baluch rugs is always derivative of what can be found on the weavings from these three other geographic areas.
RK is well-known for our statement: Show us any Baluch rug and we will show you where its (watered-down) inconography originated and has been copied.
For us this is the major reason we have never bothered to collect Baluch weavings. We do presently have a couple in our collection, and in our fifty years of collecting have owned a grand total of perhaps twenty or twenty-five others.
We well recognize the superior materials and coloration best of type Baluch rugs exhibit. But since this can also be said for weavings made in those other three areas, plus their far more original, interesting and archetypal iconographies, we just cannot become enamoured or a fan of anything called Baluch.
Horses for course, and for those who do not really care about how well a weaving does at recreating ancient, historical designs and patterns we can see the attraction you feel and, like the idea beauty is in the beholders eye, we surely will not try to get on the other side of any argument proponents might muster.
Nor will we ever try to debate the price someone might ask for, or pay for, any outstanding and commendable Baluch weaving.
All that said and done we do become vocal when we see what we can only call incredible ridiculousness when it comes to extolling non-existent or highly exaggerated virtues of any type of a weaving, be it a Baluch or any other, or putting a totally absurd and enormous price on it.
Now then lets not overlook the obvious -- a true masterpiece can and will lend itself to high praise and rightly shatter any already established price structure.
This is an immutable law of the art world and one that cannot be discounted or negated.
Yes, we know, this brings into question what is a masterpiece, and the more fundamental question who is the final arbiter to make such a declaration.
Again, we will not open this can of worms and leave it to your own judgment.
There are no brainers everyone can agree on, and justifiable jump balls, near misses and complete failures. And there are times the masterpiece boundary becomes so trampled and obliterated to make it into a mockery.
Such is the case, we are sorry to report, with the recent and ongoing exhibition of Baluch weavings and contemporary art now on view in New York City at the Friedman Benda Gallery (515 west 26th Street).
Titled Under the Night Sky it attempts to make comparison betweem certain contemporary art works (C/A) -- paintings and sculptures and a group of Baluch pile rugs.
Not only is this a painfully trite premise, but from the publicity photos of the exhibition we have seen, we do not understand how most, in fact almost all, of the C/A on view has anything to do with any night sky. See for youself in the three pictures from the gallery website below.
These photos appear online on www.friedmanbenda.com, but they do not contain any prices. RK spoke to the gallery and they sent us the official price list. And that is the source of these totally crazy, unsupportable, prices.
Putting this aside and granting artistic license to the gallerys organizers, and unnamed anonymous curator and owner of the Baluch rugs (more about this follows), we cannot as easily absolve whomever made-up the fancilful and preposterous prices hung on the Baluch rugs.
Before we get into that, here is the publicity blurb accompanying the exhibition.
Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems enchanted after all.
The night sky remains an enduring source of inspiration. For millennia, this universal cover of darkness at once symbolizes life and death, fascination, fear, immorality, regeneration, and a blank slate for our projected dreams and desires.
Under the Night Sky explores the numerous ways in which the frontier of the night sky influences the human psyche and continues to hold artists in its grip. Spanning the spaces of Friedman Benda and albertz benda, the exhibition brings toether significant works by modern, post-war, and contemporary artists and designers with a selection of seminal Central Asian rugs. The works in the exhibition engage with the night sky on both conscious and unconscious levels, featuring the interplay between literal homages to the night sky and works with looser interpretations of the theme, whose makers innately channel the emotive presence of night.
The centerpiece of this exhibition is a rare collection of 19th century Baluch and related tribes. Palettes of midnight blues, coral and cherry reds, and emerald greens are often punctuated by white floral and geometric motifs, which symbolize prosperity and fertility. These textiles on an unconscious level evoke the visual effect of luminescent stars amidst the night sky.
Seminal Central Asian rugs? What does this mean? While it is easy to concede the Baluch rugs are all better than average, some more so that others. It is not possible to concede any of them deserve the modifier seminal. Also calling them a rare collection, which on the surface is a very ambiguous phrase -- is the collection rare or are the examples rare, just one other questionable premise this write-up and the show itself raises.
The man behind this exhibition and the owner of the Baluch weaving is undoubtedly michael black.
He said more than a year ago he would be organizing and mounting an exhibition in a major New York art gallery that would comapre contemporary art with early Anatolian rugs.
As is par for the course with mr black his words seem to rarely carry through to action and although we welcome him or anyone else who wants to publicly exhibit weavings we just cannot see how putting outrageous prices on good but not great, forget about masterpiece, weavings -- be they Baluch or any other genre does anything but further the impression many people have that rug dealers are crooks.
We will be delighted if mr black takes the time to try and counter our impressions by writing in to our discussion board.
We would also enjoy hearing from any readers, fans of Baluch rugs or not, with their comments.