The latest issue of that rag hali magazine is out and RK would like to commend them for the increased amount of collector oriental carpet material in this issue. This is not to say its like the old days but tis a step in the right direction.
After all, for at least the last decade and probably longer, this magazine has somewhat turned its back on its core audience collectors, dealers and interested parties whose reason for subscribing, buying or reading were focused on historic and antique carpets, kelims and related flatweaves.
Its understandable why the directors, actually there are no directors only now two time owner michael franses, have tried to reorient that rag hali away from this very specific audience to encompass the substabtially larger one for textiles in general and what is called the catch-all nomer tribal art.
However, even though this game plan might look good on paper in reality it is doomed to failure. We have heard from a very reliable source the number of subscribers continues to fall, in fact now way past the point of profitability. The only way that rag hali survives is on the back of Cover its sister publication for new carpets, the books they are hired to publish and the tours they organize and run.
There is little to no hope things will change but with franses at the helm, and his proven piss-poor business sense and record, any miracle to make that rag hali show a profit will never happen.
Years ago RK suggested forget printing the magazine and only publish it digitally. This would remove most of the cost to produce it, 100 percent of the considerable shipping cost, and encourage a far broader range of possible readers to become subscribers. But franses is a pompous fool, and an egotistical one at that, and by throwing in the towel and giving up publishing a print edition he will have to tacitly admit his gross error in buying it back and believing he could turn its dwindled fortunes around by doing the same old thing. BTW this is why he got it for cheap in the first place, as the previous owner was smarter than franses and knew the magazine had no future and was nothing more than a money-pit loser.
Rewriting history is one thing franses never lacks energy for but his efforts have been stupidly transparent like now claiming to be retired but still continuing to put his name as chairman on that rag halis first page. You cant have it both ways but in franses-land one never gives up trying.
OK, enough of that heres some RK comments on the articles on carpets, etc.
First up is a two-page article on vase-technique woven rugs in the Burrell collection. The yellow ground one, now provenanced to Azerbijan, is a beauty. Then a brief two pages on Maroccan rugs that is more an advertisement for a coming that rag hali tour of the country than anything else.
Next, another bioptic look at Kareem Abdul Jabbar as rug collector and now seller of his eye-popping, as the article puts it, collection. This is not the first mention of his divestment. Kareem was a super-star basketball player. RK remembers seeing him as a high school player for Power Memorial Academy. Back then he was known as Lew Alcindor and since we are the same age RK was fortunate enough to see him play when we were both juniors and seniors in high school. He was unstoppable.
We also ran into him several times in Los Angeles in the shop of Jamal Ruffi, perhaps the most colorful carpet dealer LALA-land ever produced. Actually, Kareem had a rug "expurt" who oversaw all his purchases, John Douglass, who co-authored a book "The Lost Language: Value and Symbolism in Oriental Carpets", with his wife Susan Peters. This laughable book proposed all designs on rugs had sexual symbolism and proved it was Douglass and Peters who were lost -- there is no lost language.
Anyway, Kareems collection is not exactly a great one by todays standards, as it is mostly mid-to-later 19th century Caucasian and Persian rugs that are now not nearly as in vogue a s they were thirty years or so ago -- or as valuable..
The next carpet-centric article discusses the archive of information about late Caucasian rugs and weavings housed in the Georgian Museum of Folk and Applied Arts in Tbilisi. Too bad there is no info on pre-19th century weavings.
Then a 4 page spread on Ikat, a topic in our opinion that has been over-publicized with, again in our opinion, undo reason. Ikats are nice pretty things but for us they, like suzani, have little to no appeal. Basically, they have no guts, little connection to historic weaving and indigenous weaving cultures and are workshop, almost faactory products.
One of the major articles is entitled editors choice where nine of the ten choices are carpets or related weaves. RK has little regard or respect for editor ben evanss knowledge so we will avoid any commentary. But wed like to publish his second choice, a trans-Caucasian kelim from the collection/inventory of raoul tschebull, aka tschebullshit, and compare it to one of ours. We are sure most every reader, besides tschebullshit, would agree his looks sad and boring by comparison. By the way tschebullshit claims to be an expert on trans-Caucasian weavings, sometime wed be delighted to disabuse him of any such thought.
Upper/Left: stripe trans-Caucasian kelim raoul tschebull collection; Lower/Right: stripe trans-Caucasian kelim RK collection; published plate 5, Kelim Soumak Carpet and Cloth: Classic Weaving of the Caucasus 1990
In his ever exclusively personalized focus of a writing style, evans tells at first passing over tschebulls kelim and then only later seeing what he calls its individual character. This is mush-mouth talk and while tschebullshit's kelim is nice and all that compared to RKs it is shows itself to be clunky and simplistic. It lacks the syncopated rhythmic interplay of color and form only the most skilled and expert weavers were able to achieve. Design is easily copied. Proportions that make design come alive are far harder to create. This, plus the more varied color palette, and the intensity and preservation of those colors make RKs a masterpiece and tschebulls far from one.
We seriously doubt whether evans or tschebull could appreciate the differences and even if they could they would not admit it. Saying this is a rare design, as evans notes, is correct, however, RKs has been published several times. We are not surprised ours was not mentioned. First because it blows tschebull's away and second that rag hali and others do everything they can to ghost us, our websites, our publications and our collection. Too bad for them as time goes on they become more irrevelant and RK more relevant.
Choice number three was a bird asmalyk owned by Michael Rothberg that evnas foolishly claims is the "best of the group". This is just plain dumb. First because two others, the now ex-Ebberhart Herrman and the one in Russia, are far superior in all respects. Calling evans mistaken is even more credible since the ex-Herrmann one was on view next to Rothbergs when evans saw it earlier this spring at the San Ynez collector roundup. This is just one more of many demonstrations evans should not be writing about carpets with any aires of authority but rather keeping his mouth tightly shut.
Regardless of our disinterest in quoting or commenting on bon mots from evans in this or any other article in this issue, we cannot resist sharing the following our readers:
This article attempts to subvert the need to package our desire to share without having to accumulate multiple examples, commission definitive comparative commentaries or construct an accompanying narrative. The comments that follow tell of the how and where we have seen pieces, whether in California, Milan,Tokyo or elsewhere, and reflect either the voice of a trusted expert, or our experienced response or reaction to a piece, or indeed our reflections on something that has never been shown before.
What a tongue-tied illiterate. Frankly the article would have been greatly improved if evans had subverted any and all desires to try and say something pertinent because by trying to do so he just proved he has nothing pertinent to say.
Several choices later evans states The more I see the less I know. We could not agree more heartedly.
Arguably the most interesting of his choices for the majority of readers will be choices 6 and 7, shown below.
The rather cluttered, horror vacui designed rug on the left belongs to brian morehouse and the one with four rows of seven Turkmen synak/sainak icon on the right to Marshall and Marlyn Wolf.
The morehouse rug is dated circa 1800 and the Wolf rug 18th century or earlier. Both are provenanced to Sivas.
We surely disagree. Trying to locate both to Sivas, when it is obvious even from just the photographs they have nothing physically in common, is just plain stupid. The article's dating the morehouse to circa 1800 is a bit generous. Wed prefer first half 19th but more to the point, it is not from Sarkisla/Sivas by any means, as everything visual about it screams more central Anatolia, maybe Nevsehir. But surely not Sivas.
The Wolf rug is also not from Sivas but again father west, maybe Aksaray, and is none other than a Yuruk type weaving. It might well be at least a century earlier than that rag hali guesstimated.
Both are the types of rugs that are now actively sought by collectors, many of who have finally realized the Caucasian rugs they collected 10, 20, and 30 years ago are mostly workshop rugs with little of the genuine charm and allure rugs like these exude.
Next up is lavish, large 20 page spread A Collection of Collections that we see as nothing but a waste of paper and ink. Owned by Karun Thakar, whoever he is, there is not one masterpiece or even outstanding example visible on any of those pages. Perhaps that rag hali is buttering him up to hire them to produce another book? Supposedly he has already done four.
No offense to Mr Thakar or his collecting passions but after reading this article wed suggest a far better title would have been A Smorgesbord of Mediocrity.
Next for all you fans of Mameluk carpets, all three of you (ha ha), is the story of the Bardini that has recently been sold under the table to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. This seen one seen them all Mamuluk is more interesting for its previous owner history than its beauty or importance. Were we asked, which of course we werent, wed never have championed its purchase. After all it is a cut-up rejoined and well worn typical example. Its old but so what it aint beautiful or hisorically significant. Seen one seen them all.
If you want to see a Mamuluk carpet that is a masterwork go to the Met Museum and see their gigantic, truly eye-popping psychedelic example. 'Nuff said about boring workshoppe Mamuluk carpets.
Next up is the In the Beginning article which hypes a proposed book dealing with recently discovered -- where and by who remains mysterious -- pile and mixed-technique weavings that may be earlier than the famous Pazaryk.
On two separate occassions RK critiqued michael fransess Doha sponsored podcast where a number of these weaving were shown. They can be found here:
His podcast is still online and can found and dowloaded here:
In the Beginning is far more an advertisement for this book than even a brief a survey of its possible contents. It also throws out this teaser
We also plan to put various aspects of the ongoing research online so that they can be periodically updated after publication. Relevant themes will include: technical, structural, dye and fibre analysis; C-14 date test results; a catalogue of pile carpets before 800 ce; a catalogue of tapestries before 800 ce; a catalogue of mosaic floors with carpet designs; a catalogue of carpets before 800 ce in paintings and on other works of art; references to carpets in literature before 800 ce.
RK will be very pleased, but amazed, if franses ever publishes anything online that will be for public consumption and without cost. His track record only shows for profit works, a few of them like the advertised but never delivered second volume of Turkmen Studies, far more puff than substance. His planned two publishing projects before he got thrown out of Doha have never seen the light of day. Neither has peddling his and his partners collection of Chinese textiles found a home or been published.
Carpets from the tomb of Shah Abbas II and in particular the twelve-sided masterpiece are discussed in the next article. This articles right on and should be of value to any carpet collector or interested party, regardless of any non-interest in classical carpets.
One aside: In 1981 we were living in New York City and one day a rather foolish and naive budding carpet collector told us Oh, by the way, theres a bookshop on Nineth street and Fourth avenue where they have a bunch of books from Joseph McMullans personal library
We instantly got in the car and drove over and sure enough there was a table with a two foot high pile. We sorted through them, and picked several to buy. Sadly, many other titles had already been sold. None to the guy who told us.
Anyway, among the ones RK did snag was a manila envelope with about fifty black and white approximatey 5x8 photos of the famous 1931 International Exhibition of Persian Art at the Burlington House, London England. This is where the Shah Abbas tomb carpets were first exhibited.
The next article of interest profiles some of the Anatolian "village" rugs in the Romain Zaleski collection, aka Moshe Tabibnias money man.
Zaleski has supposedly amassed a 1,200 rug collection but we are afraid the majority are now passe and far from museum quality.
His efforts to start a museum in Milan, then in Venice, and finally in a former movie theater in Brrecia have all been unsuccessful. Of course none of this has ever been mentioned in the pages of that rag hali, whose credo to tell the truth is as tarnished as a thousand year old silver spoon.
Among the Anatolian rugs pictured there are two Sarkisla rugs both of them in our opinion seriously overdated. The first is not 18th century but rather early 19th and the second has to be jokingly, but sadly it isnt, dated 17th century. Wed place it second half of the 18th century. They are both nice examples but great they aint.
This article raises questions whether its author, Daniel Shaffer, ben evans, or anyone else at that rag hali actually knows the difference between a genuine, early Anatolian village rug or later genre period workshop recreations like these shown from the Zaleski collection.
One thing is sure michael franses does not as the following makes perfectly clear.
German so-called uber Turkmen carpet collector hans sienknecht is profiled on the last eight pages of this issue. There are some pics of what we consider to be the better examples from his giant, the article claims more than 1000 piece, collection. A goodly number of his best were already published in jorg rageths now almost forgotten, two volume New Perspectives Turkmen survey.
Like the other so-called top Turkmen rug collectors, sienknecht also bankrolled rageth. But since he was the most financially generous more of his collection was pictured.
RK has known sienknecht for thirty plus years and honestly we seriously doubt claims of his alleged expertise. Anyone can get a few gems by buying up hundreds and hundreds of Turkmen rugs. This was the modus operandi of sienknechts operation, surely not connoisseurship or expertise.
Unlike other collectors sienknecht has not attempted to write a book, which is a good thing as far as we are concerned because we have never heard him say anything that is original or even interesting.
Anyone who knows the truth realizes this profile makes hans sienknecht out to be even more uber than that word could ever imply. The fact he is and has been more of a closeted rug dealer than collector for decades, and even has been rumored to have gotten into hot water with the German Bundesministerium fr Finanzen for his rug dealing, as well as the scads of mediocre and low collector quality rugs he owns and is constantly trying to off-load on new naive collectors, tells a far different story than the one this article is trying to spin.
We could go on to comment about the exceedingly high level of flattery, puffery and blatant obsequiousness that permanates throughout this article. But why bother, go read it for yourself.
PS: Sure hans sienknecht has some great and outstanding Turkmen rugs. Who wouldnt after amassing a collection of 1,000 and having unlimited funds to purchase whatever good, bad or indifferent --that caught his eye?