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Thu, May 2nd, 2019 11:25:46 AM
Topic: When Mediocrity Rules the Roost

This past weekend Boston's skinner auction had their spring sale. Almost 400 lots passed the block with a high 80%plus sell through.

As we all know numbers can be misleading, and that sales figure's not true beacon of shining light.

Stuff sold cheap. Sure there were no masterpieces on offer and the few interesting lots sold well. The rest were in a manner of speaking give-a-ways compared to what the owners probably paid or what they surely would have brought ten or twenty years ago.

But das was and this is now.

In keeping with our stated policy of no pre-sale auction commentary and scant desire for an post-sale review we will not bother to say much about anything but a few individual lots.

The first, lot 12, the so-called "Chal" kelim sold for a resounding $5,228 (all prices including buyers premium). A cute colorful thingy dated to 1880 by auction expert lazy larry kearny, more about his dating abilities below, but RK seriously doubt it is any earlier than 1920-30. Nor do we believe in this attribution, basically because there is nothing to validate it.

Oh well, no bother as the buyer is probably happy with this 'modern' looking aesthetic weaving. Who cares how old it is or where it is from. Forget what it is really worth, or what it ever will be.

BTW: the reason we call him larry larry is the sparce as the desert in summer shortest and most brief catalog entries.Lazy larry never has a word to say except the size and who might have owned it when such info is as obvious as the nose on his face. Guess, though, it's better to keep silent when you have nothing to say than to make a Holbein fool of yourself, more about this below. Touche

The next, lot 15, an ugly triclinium, we seriously doubt the purchaser can even pronounce it, sold for a hat's off $14,760. Having been in the hands of something called the "Cadle Collection", a mystery provenance unexplained anywhere in the catalog, it was ex-harold keshishian collection and exhibited in the ground-breaking 1969 "From the Bosphorous to Samarkand" exhibition, and published in the catalog.

There's no dount this exhibition was ground-breaking but for flatweaves, not piled tricliniums. So little lustre from having been a catalog entry is due.

Again, the buyer was far more influenced to open the wallet because of these impremitures than the quality, beauty or importance. Should be destined for Fido to nap on.

This is definitely the way the rug collecting world rolls in 2019. Rather a group of nouveau ignorant and uneducated buyers, not a connoisseur in the bunch, waving paddles and opening wallets than smart, savvy buyers.

We're sure skinner's rug department, and other auction houses's as well, are tickled pink to have them.

Lot 22 a long on rarity but short on beauty or quality Caucasian prayer kelim sold for $6,765. The small number of these prayer kelim have always enjoyed success when they come to auction. But this one is late and nothing special. Frankly we would not want it for free. The buyer, however, clearly thought differently. Good luck to him/her.

Lot 28, the supposed "ShahSevan" sumak khorjin sold for a healthy $11,070. This price, too, was undoubtedly kited by the ex-Cadle, ex-W. R.(Russ) Pickering collections and publication in the "Bosphorous to Samarkand" provenance. Doubt this later 19th century weaving would have elicited much interest sans that history.

It's a nice thing, one of the better if not the best of the group, and considering sumak bags are very in these days the price was reasonable, comparatively speaking that is. Guess the big guns who have lately vied for a couple of outstanding sumak khorjins at auction and private sales were not out for this one. Guess it looked too rugy and not artsy.

By the way, the de rigeur hanging a ShahSevan label on hundreds of sumak bag, various flatweave and pile carpets is dubious at best and probably ridiculous. Even in the late 19th century when most of them were made there just could not have been enough ShahSevan weavers to have produced them.

We have no idea who or where it was made but the limited color palette and cutesy some what flaccid drawing make us opine somewhere in Iran and not anywhere near the Caucasus, which is the home of the best sumak weavings.

All said and done it's a nice $3,500 khorjin, not an $11,000 one no matter what the arguments buyer and underbidder might voice.

PS: Mr Cadle probably paid more...

Lot 130, a stripey supposed south Caucasian prayer rug sold for a hefty $15,990. Dated 1872, having a loose and crude weave, and being rather colorless, all attributes that would have relegated it to a fraction of that price fate years ago, it soared thanks to competition between a few newly minted buyers of all things Caucasian that only come out to play in skinner's playpen.

A black and white picture of it is far more appealing than seeing it in technicolor. Hope the buyer doesn't realize this before settling the invoice.

Lot 138, another supposed ShahSevan khorjin sold for $3,075. A very fair price for this rare weaving. By the way, it's a Bijar.

Lot 145 sold for a whooping $7,380. Makes you wonder what the best of type blazing colr and almost tissue paper fine masterwork would sell for. See plate 5 "Kelim Soumak Carpet and Cloth: Tribal Weaving of the Caucasus, 1990.

Lot 230, another ShahSevan weaving, this time a sumak salt bag, sold for what we believe is a record price for one of these things $6,150. Don't know who the competitors for this mediocrity were but more power to them.

Catalog writer, larry kearney, got it right by estimating it a generous 800-1000$. Never underestimate how quickly fools are parted from their money, is all we can say.

This had nothing going for it other than excellent condition -- the kiss of death as any savvy buyer knows a real ethnographic item like a salt bag in excellent condition means it is late and probably a piece of airport-art. Soemthing that we think well describes this piece.

Last but not least is the major boner kearny pulled by calling lot 113 a 16th century large pattern Holbein.

Guess larry never saw a real one as this late genre period reproduction cannot date anywhere near that. It's most likely circa 1800.

All and all this skinner sale was typical for what is going on in rugDUMB in 2019.

Buyers galore for mediocre pseudo collector weavings at dirt cheap to what has become known as reasonable prices. Reasonable for the buyer but not for any seller, who has not been lucky enough to find something in the garbage or town dump.

No one makes any profit or even return of original cost at these prices, especially high-end paying retail customers, aka 'collectors', who would do better on the come line at any casino's craps table in Vegas.

At least there if you loose enough they comp you to a suite with free food, drinks and tickets to a show. At these auctions all big time buyers might get is a free catlog. Whooppee do.

You get what you pay for if you have little knowledge, experience or connoisseurship.

Better to pay way too much for a masterpiece than have a collection of mediocrities. Don't ever doubt or forget that, race fans.

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