Home > Auctions worldwide >Gourmet, Gourmand or Glutton sotheby 11/27/19
Author:RK
email: [email protected]
Sat, Nov 30th, 2019 01:47:41 PM
Topic: Gourmet, Gourmand or Glutton sotheby 11/27/19

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 116

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 97

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.

Lot 68

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.

Lot 69

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.

Lot 57

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.

Lot 41

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.

Lot 86

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!

Author: RK
email: [email protected]
Sat, Nov 30th, 2019 01:47:41 PM

Well, sothebys results are in and as RK expected the passionate collector got a shellacking, losing his pants and shirt as well.

His much touted connoisseurship evaporated under the hammer like a drop of whiskey in a drunkards flagon.

And by the way we now know the identity of this unnamed rug buyer but we are not at liberty to release it. And, yes, it is a man, someone who has never been on the rug scene, unknown to just about everyone, preferring to buy unheralded and privately.

Supposedly he does not need the money and just got bored one day, as we have heard it, with carpet collecting.

Then, might RK ask, why bother to sell the collection, for as we see it better bored than broke.

Ah, well, all of us will never truly know the vicissitudes of the rich and how they view their assets and bank book.

RKs prediction of disaster for him was right on; however, thanks to agreeing to sell lots below the low etimates, where most of them ended up, his sale percentage was quite a bit higher than we expected.

While we did not count the number of bought-in lots, we would guess it was about 20% leaving a solid 80% sold. However, its not only how many sold but more important what they sold for; and on this end the sale was a dismal event and undeniable failure.

Lets look at a few of the lots we discussed and see how poorly they fared under the hammer.

But before we do we should confess the following.

We were moderately interested in purchasing lot 24, hence our not picturing it in our pre-sale missive.

We had also been interested when it was offered for sale at rippon boswell, lot 125, in May 2014. Incidently a number of lots in this sale were purchased at that sale by the passionate collector, who we will now refer to as Mr. PC.

Then lot 125 sold for 915 euro, including commissions. This time around it made 750 pounds hammer price, which about the same amount considering seller commissions.

It was one of the few lots Mr. PC broke even on. Bully for him.

But our ardor to own this khorjin was not very strong, both times in the final analysis we demurred thanks to the strong possibility it has some synthetic dye(s), something we avoid at all costs.

Thats not to say it is not a cute khorjin and someone got a good deal regardless of our suspicion of lurking synthetic color.

OK heres how the lots we mentioned performed.

Lot 6, the single eagle medallion, probably a Karabagh, sold for 18,750 pounds, a mediocre price for a mediocre example of a very rare type. Mr. PC bought it in Oct 2014 at Christies London carpet sale when he paid 32,500 pounds plus commissions.

Considering this time around as a seller he also had to pay commissions we doubt he netted even half of what he paid only five years ago. Good business, huh?

Lot 22 the eagle-group Turkmen pardah sold for 40,000 pounds compared to the 61,000 euro Mr.PC paid at rippon boswells Nov 2014 sale when it sold as lot 176. On that day one euro bought 0.79 pounds, which means he paid for 48,290 pounds plus commissions.

Another nice loss we guess of about 30%, more good business, huh? Hope he got a lot of enjoyment looking at it over those five years, huh?

Lot 41 the mis-attributed rare Melas sold for a nice round 50,000 pounds plus commissions. Mr. PC acquired it at Christies London carpet sale on April 2014, lot 12, when it sold for 40,000 pounds plus commissions. All told the turn around probably was a break-even for him. Hooray, not much of a winner but at least it was not a loser like the majority of his 2019 sotheby consignment.

Lo 57 the George Bailey animal tree Tekke asmalyk was, as we expected, passed giving Mr. PC another chance to find a future buyer who is as passionate, and ill-advised as he.

If at first you do not suceed try, try again. But we suspect in his case it will be try but fail, fail again, as the market price for this asmalyk is at best around $20,000 $25,000 if a buyer could be found.

Lot 71, the big nuke as we called it, sold for 75,000 pound compared to its last time on the block when it sold for 140,000 euro plus commissions in the Austria Auction Company Sept. 2014 sale.

On that day 140,000 euro was equal to 109,200 pounds making another substantial loss for Mr. PC considering he has to pay sothebys their commission on top as well.

Lot 73, the decidedly not early mafrash from the robert pinner sale, sold for a disasterous 375 pounds minus sellers commissions. Mr. PC acquired it at May 2013 rippon-boswell pinner sale lot 227 when it sold for 1,952 euro.

At that time the euro to pound exchange rate was 0.85 so the 1,952 euro Mr. PC paid was equal to 1659 pounds. Another substantial loss. Some great eye for picking losers Mr. PC has, huh?

Lot 86 the charming Karachov prayer rug RK liked did not do anywhere as well as we suspected. Were there lurking synthetic dyes? The ubiquitous catalog dating 19th century which is generally a euphemism denoting their presence and probably was the case here.

That withstanding, it is still a personable and animated prayer rug, something few others of its ilk can manage.

It sold for 5,000 pounds dead center of the estimate.

Lot 97, the star Ushak, sold for 150,000 pounds against an estimate of 65,000 90,000 pounds. It, and the Lotto lot 116, provided the two major upside pops in this low energy sale.

Formerly sold at Christies London April 2014 carpet sale, lot 50, when it made 86.500 pounds, it was one of the brighter spots. However, that and the Lottos moments of sunshine were not nearly enough to illuminate the dark as a moonless night in the desert rest of the sale.

Lot 116, the last lot we mentioned sold for a strong 237,500 pounds. There is no way to know what Mr. PC paid, as he purchased it privately from Christies after it did not sell in their October 2014, lot 25, sale

Summing up this sale, along with the other recent rich man rug collector dispersal sales, is an easily determined equation. They freely and wantonly spent their money thinking they are getting real art, real history, and really significant weavings only to then later learn an expensive lesson this was far from the case.

The antique oriental rug collecting game is a hard task-master few, very few, are able to both master and succeed at doing anything but losing.

Reading books, going to exhibitions, allying themselves with a so-called expert rug dealers and auction house experts, or just going it alone, has been and always will be a perfect recipe for failure on all counts and financial disappointment.

RK has watched people like Mr. PC and Zaleski fail miserably at making a carpet collection that is worthy of the energy and money they expended.

This is equally as true for the myriad of collectors who long ago also tried their hand.

But one name sticks out of this mold Joseph McMullan -- and while no one knows, who he relied on for advice, or even if he did, he succeeded brilliantly. Something all the Mr. PCs, Zaleskis, Voks and others whose names are bandied about in our times can not hold a candle to.

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