We have received several emails questioning the choice of the title chosen for this discussion: A Tail of Two Prayer Rugs. This is not surprising as more than two prayer rugs are presented and there are no tails in sight.
Ostensibly this can be explained by stating it was a take-off of the title John Taylor used for his post A Tale of Two Safs, which was published last week in the Pictures for Discussion Topic Area. But there is another, more complicated, one as well.
Collecting Antique Oriental Rugs remains one of the tiniest, if not the tiniest, corners of the Art World. This situation, which has existed for the hundreds of years they have been objects of interest in the West, results from the extreme rarity of the best examples, the difficulties inherent in their identification and provenance and most importantly the lack of real information about them that is available for reference.
Today things are no different even though literally hundreds of books have been published in the past 35 years. These factors have engendered this circumstance but, more significantly, the somewhat unhealthy level of packaging and control exerted by a few individuals, who are perceived almost as royalty, is as contributory.
While defacto hierarchies exist in most other art areas, their larger constituencies and superior levels of reference material acts as a checks-and-balance.
However because these factors do not exist, the small group of scholars, like thompson, weretime and denny, dealers, like franses and herman, and the ubiquitous hali can dictate taste, prices and fashion according to their own agendas or personal opinions.
This is bad enough but it is exacerbated by the complete lack of any dissention or critique whether from within the rug community or from outside it. Added to this is the collusive nature of relationships these groups, scholars, dealers and hali maintain the old one hand washes the other adage sums it up to nicely.
The rug public at large, isnt very large, and their sheepish acceptance and eyes wide shut attitude allows this status quo buddy-ism to flourish and perpetuate. It doesnt encourage change and, what is more alarming, no one seem to want it.
So, while these cliques clack together for short-term mutual and personal benefit, the opportunities to create wide and lasting appreciation for the art historical value and importance of Oriental Rugs languishes by the wayside.
There is a tremendous amount of hard work to be done to stimulate and affect change. But because its easier to sell, both literally and figuratively, the accepted old ideas and half-truths, classical court carpets and some types of decorative ones, those scholars, holier than thou dealers and lazy hali editors make no effort in these directions.
The result is the old tail wagging the dog and that is the rest of the story.