Gourmet, Gourmand or Glotton
Detail lot 68
Words like connoisseur, expert and scholar have become hackneyed, hollow descriptors in rugDUMB. This is one of the most visible symptoms not only something is wrong but it is so wrong it probably can never be fixed in our lifetime.
Witness the title of the coming sothebys London carpet sale: A Passion for Collecting: the rugs and carpets of a connoisseur.
Of the 116 lots in the sale we could not identify one genuine masterpiece any true blood connoisseur would be proud to call mine. Right, there are a few nice things but there is not even one best of type; great, off the charts weaving in the bunch. Some connoiseur.
Now RK does not know who this passionate connoisseur is but we do know he/she is wealthy enough to have spent a fortune on this collection thanks to the fact many items were purchased relatively recently at major auctions whose prices are readily acccessible.
It clear this collector had more money than brains and the dent that will appear in his/her pocketbook is an unmistakable reminder of that fact.
It also is more proof reading some rug books, going to some carpet exhibitions and trusting the advice of rug experts is a perfect prescription for losing your shirt in the antique oriental carpet collecting game.
Welcome to the club of losers, Mr/Mrs pasionate collector. PS: You are not alone by any means.
With this as preface lets now get down to some gitty-gritty.
This auction season has seen the highest number of uber collector sales RK has ever witnessed. Remember uber collector means a fat wallet, willingness to open it frequently, and little real knowledge about the weavings Mr/Mrs Uber purchases.
Not to be left out in the dark sothebys London has scheduled their entry in the race to the bottom for what little is left of the oriental rugs and carpet collecting world gravy train of naive rich paddle wavers who think they are getting the real thing.
Calling their sale A Passion for Collecting: The Rugs and Carpets of a Connoisseur, it takes place on Nov.27, 2019 and will consist of 116 lots from a single collection. Sorry, it hardly qualifies for such an inposing and prestigious title.
Thirty years ago a sale like this would have flown skyhigh, however, in today's diminished everything oriental rug marketplace we predict it will barely clear the runway.
There are a few notables and we will discuss them along with some lesser fare. But the vast majority of weavings on offer are old hat, seen one seen them all type of merch that has flooded and continues to flow into that dwindling market..
Now look, this sale does not have 300 plus lots of junk like a skinner sale, and while it is basically, mostly, on par with the coming Romain Zaleski sale at rippon-boswell this type of merchandise has a steeply declining audience, one that in actuality has declined to the point of invisibility at anywhere near the old price levels.
Sure, there are low-end buyers bottom fishing around for rugs and carpets like most of these, and it surely is no success or highlight for them to sell for 50% and more discount over what they cost 20-30 and more years ago.
Rich men can laugh off losing money but in the real world it ain't funny.
Decades ago 19th century Caucasian and Turkish rugs that make up at least half of this auction, and Zaleskis, used to sell well as furnishing items. Now decorating tastes have changed leaving them to languish on the market, regardless of how cheap estimates and reserves be.
Sure if they do sell at all they do so at huge discounts over what passionate collector/owners paid decades ago. These people can forget any return on investment because they will not even get their investment returned.
We have said this before and nothing has changed, other than more and more of this type of goods offered for sale, both public and private.
And prices will continue to spiral down. Watch and see what happns at the Zaleski sale and here at sothebys.
While we do not know who the "passionate collector" behind this sale is, we are pretty sure that name will be bandied about sooner than later.
No matter, for as RK wrote in the name game post, collectors today value provenance, but solely secondary when it comes to the cost of object that is being offered.
Here are a few of the lots and some comments from us.
The big nuke in the sale is this so-called Caucasian animal combat carpet lot 71, ex-Ulrich Schurmann collection. It was recently sold at the Austria Auction Company Sept. 2014 sale, lot 85, for 140,000 euro hammer price plus circa 30% fees.
Now estimated at 90,000 - 150,000 pounds we sincerely doubt it will sell, and if it does it will be well below that 2014 sale price.
Detail lot 71
Another hopeful and touted lot is 116, a large lotto kelleh carpet at the very end of the sale. Estimated for 150,000 - 250,000 pounds we also doubt it will sell for anything close to even the low estimate.
Previously sold at Christies Oct. 2014 lot 25, when it went unsold it was purchased after the sale by the passionate collector.
Lucky uber collector, Ha.
Most prbable the same will happen at sothebys but we totally doubt any new passionate collector connoisseur will step up and buy it after it flops again.
Lot 97, a good looking Star Oushak carries a hefty but not unreachable estimate of 65,000 -90,000 pounds. It, like the previous two and a number of other sothebys high ticket lots, was recently purchased at auction Christies April 2014 lot 50 when it made 86,500 pounds.
Its small size, 10 ft x 6 ft, and relatively good condition might help it sell at or somewhat above the reserve which presumably is around 48,000 pounds hammer. That's about a 50% loss over the five years since it last sold. Good investment, huh?
Lot 68, the so-called Karadashli MC with rare diamond gol major and proto-looking -tauk-naska minor is the most interesting Turkmen weaving in the sale. Estimated at 25,000 - 40,000 pounds it just might pop if that aging uber collector from Hamburg decides he needs it and a strong underbidder emerges from stage right.
It also was purchased ar auction in 2014. This time at rippon-boswells May sale, lot 179, when it made 73,200 euro including fees. We will be surprised if it sells for 40,000 euro this time around. Turkmen MCs are not exactly too many collectors cup of tea these days. Most in fact are too old and weak to even unroll them.
The minor gol is the main attraction here, and we do not know it appearing on any other MC. It does appear on a tiny number of what RK calls Large Format Torba (LFT), most of which are seriously older and more inherently beautiful.
Lot 68 is an undoubtedly a rare and interesting example although it comes with some features we could easily critique and find fault.
All in all, though, it deserves to be, and should be, acquired by a serious new owner from the northern shores of the American west coast.
In marked contrast to lot 68 stands the Saryk MC, lot 69 that single handedly decimates any credence the passionate collector is or was ever a carpet connoisseur. Even decades ago those in the know realized Saryk carpets like this were not collector items but rather workshop products produced as floor rugs. Surely no accoutrement of traditional Turkmen life and lifestyle.
Its a garish eyesore as far as RK is concerned and even at the lowball 4,000 6,000 euro estimate will not sell.
Frankly, it and a number of other lots in this sale should not have been included, as they only further destroy any belief in the connoisseurship of this mystery passionate collector and in general drag down the look of the better ones.
Another touted and likewise recently purchased Turkmen weaving is lot 57 the George Bailey Tekke animal-tree asmalyk.
Owned for decades by Bailey and his wife, who shared his interest in carpets, it was purchased at the rippon sale May 2014 lot 140 when it sold for 73,200 euro.
This time around we doubt it will make half that price, if it sells at all.
Another inarguable mention proving the lack of connoisseurship this passionate collector exhibited was rather than blow a wad on that mediocre asmalyk -- yes we know it is rare but that does not change its mediocrity compared to the best of these animal tree things -- he/she should have gone for and acquired lot 127 in the same sale -- the cute as a button Bailey Tekke khalyk that sold for less than half the price 30,500 eiro.
Well, since the passionate collector was vacuum cleaning up in 2014 maybe he/she got it and could not part with the cutie and left it hanging aound the bathroom mirror?
the Bailey Tekke khalyk
RK knew George Bailey well and many times visited his apartment uptown, often for 'tea' his wife would graciously serve, and always tried to buy that khalyk. Obviously we never got it but the passionate collector could have. Accodlades are cheap, facts are not.
OK, lets say a few bon mots about this sale before we bid readers adieu.
By default the following two lots are what we have to call our favorites. The first is decidedly more valuable but on an art level, or any other we could imagine, both are equal in our view.
Lot 41 is erroneously called Bergama in the catalog. Actually its a Melas and was the best rug German carpet world stalwart Martin Volkman ever acquired during his long career as a good ole boy on the carpet scene in Deutschland.
Its a beautiful example of a very rare type. However, it has to take back-seat to the one Joe McMullan collected. But Joes will never be for sale -- its in the Met in NY so Martins star rug should have benefitted price wise when it sold at Christies April 2014, lot 12, for 40,000 pounds plus fees.
Honestly that was v-e-r-y reasonable and we are ready to bet it eclipses that figure this time around when it caries a 30,000 40,000 pound estimate.
If you do not compare it to McMullans it shines brightly. And if you do it still has some lustre, much more than anything else in this sale.
Last but remarkably not least is lot 86, which RK has christened R2D2.
Estimated at 4,000 6,000 pounds we bet it will percentage wise out preform anything else in the sale, estimate to hammer price.
This is one of the, if not the most, charming 19th century Caucasian prayer or any other type of Caucasian rug we have ever seen. It just exudes good vibes and energy from border to border.
By the way it is not a Borjalu but rather a Karachov.
We intended to add comments on a number of other lots but increasingly found this exercise a droll waste of RKs time.
Here are a couple of them.go add your own comments.
Good for fido to nap on, only, that is, only if he is a connoisseur passionate bow-wow.
Nice example pictured upside down in the catalog. It should sell at an equally upside down bargain basement price estimate but not much more.
Old enough and cheap enough. Will anyone buy it? You bet at the 100 euro starting line there will be plenty of jockeys in the race. That is until it passes 1000 euro and they fade like the ink on a cheap T-shirt in a hot wash.
A poster boy for the decimation the rug collecting world has undergone. Estimated at 4,000 6,000 euro, so.called Transylvanian Ghiordes rugs of this quality and age, lot 81, formerly sold for five to ten times this price. But even at the steep discount it probably will not find interest or a buyer.
Nice so what engsi. Doubt it will sell.
Another boring droll Turkmen weaving the passionate connoisseur should have never waved his paddle at. From the robert pinner sale, it would have been better left with pinner.
A late ugly LFT that we doubt will sell even at the dirt cheap estimate it carries.
Compare lot 22 (top above) estimated 40,000 60,000 with the champion of the group (below above).
There is little comparison but there is a great story about what happened in the aftermath when the champion sold at rippon-boswell for 145,000 DM plus fees. We are saving it for our promised autobiography, so stay tuned.
Compare this world champion, ex-RK collection eagle Kazak (top above), with the late, boring nothing of one in this connoisseurs sale, lot 8 (bottom above).
Happy paddle waving, suckers!