How To Build An Antique Rug Collection
Rugs are works of art that are unreproducible. Many people assemble a rug collection of substantial uniqueness and rarity. There is an impassioned, intimate group of international connoisseurs who recognize the artistry of the most exquisite antique rugs. Their appreciation grows as new generations discover these exceptional weavings.
Collecting 19th century tribal and Persian rugs is a fascinating adventure. It provides the opportunity to develop and test a person’s sense of virtuoso technique and beauty. Collecting becomes an intensely personal lifelong endeavor. Collectors come from all walks of life. Every antique rug collector places slightly different value on aesthetics and quality of antique and vintage rugs. Generalizing what pleases them all is nearly impossible.
John Rockefeller and William Randolph Hearst are well known antique rug collectors. During the 16th century, Cardinal Woolsey and King Henry VIII reportedly competed for the best and finest rugs from Persia and the Ottoman Empire of Turkey for their rug collection. The culture and classic skills that supported the production of the rugs are barely in existence today.
The small number of remaining early rugs are collectible and pieces of art. Commercial interests drove the rug industry in the 20th century. When placed next to an exemplary piece that is 100 to 200 years old or even older, the newer rugs pale even to many with an untrained eye.
The carpets produced in Persia during the 19th century are remarkable and highly coveted by museums and collectors. Evidence supports Oriental rugs as the forerunner to Western art. Artists revered today understand the value of Persian rugs.
Bauhaus art icons such as Kandinsky and Paul Klee studied abstract tribal rug forms. The rugs’ inventive use of color enthralled Paul Gauguin. He felt painters who sought color knowledge by studying carpets had the basics of all knowledge. Being surrounded by textiles and carpet throughout his life influenced the work of Henri Matisse.
When deciding to embark on the adventure of rug collection, there are many factors to consider. The two main concerns are what to rugs collect and how much money to invest. This article presents guidelines in those areas. There are different echelons of collectible antique carpet that allow you to enjoy the collecting process and rise to a level that is comfortable for you.
Art Collectors and Rug Collecting
The learning curve for those experienced in building any collection is much less drastic. The seasoned art collectors trust their eyes and easily recognize something that is genuinely artistic and special. The challenge for them is to identify rugs that resonate with the art on display and appeal to their personal aesthetic.
The breadth of colors and styles from ornate to subdued give a connoisseur many options for their rug collection. Collectible antique carpets are stunning companions to a range of art collection from Renaissance to modern paintings, pre-Colombian pottery to photography, etc.
Stunning homes have impeccable art collections that sit above antique Oriental rugs. They serve as the unifiers to help group pieces of art. The carpets add a palpable beauty, supporting the entire space. The use of small area rugs emphasizes and directs attention to individual specimens. They also add an exciting counterpoint to the horizontal plane.
Because of increased interest, the creme de la rug availability diminishes. There is undiscovered, dramatically undervalued art in comparison to other forms among the 19th-century rugs. They present a window of opportunity for investors and collectors.
These rugs are on the edge of being recognized as world-class art. Collectors plan to hold onto them until the intrinsic value of the rugs receives a universal acknowledgment. The rugs decorate floors and hang on walls. They are also under glass tabletops. Collectors rotate the pieces with others in storage. These rugs, like all art, bring emotional and visceral satisfaction. Using them seems to make time stand still and provide an antidote to modern life complexity.
Seasoned Rug Collectors
Some collectors assemble a rug collection to fill a home. They buy what piques their artistic taste. Every tribal group, village, and city workshop has a color palette, vocabulary, design, and signature of its own. Oriental carpets come from an artistic tradition that is over 4000 years old.
Each style developed into a mature understanding of art. Finely woven town and city rugs from regions such as Kashan, Tabriz, Farahan Sarouk, Kirman, and elsewhere are part of one collection. Someone else seeks fundamental carpet qualities found in tribal weavings from the Caucasus Mountains or the Bakshaish village in Northwest Persia.
Other rug collectors explore a gamut of art forms that are diverse and satisfy and fascinate their interests. It requires an investment of both resources and time to move from novice to veteran when becoming a collector. The process is engaging and endless.
As the acquisition of rare carpets grows, personal rewards and excitement become a driving motivation to collect more. Regardless of the investment, what starts as a passion becomes an exhilarating addiction. Some collectors have cellars, rug vaults, and museums of their own.
Novice Rug Collectors
Although there is a vast choice of styles, most people gravitate to specific subgroups. Finding a style is not a daunting task. Some weaving traditions are more well-known than others. Those high in popularity include Persian finely woven town and city rugs from Mohtasham Kashan or Laver Kirman, idiosyncratic village rugs of Azerbaijan (Camelhair, Serapi, Bakshaish), or tribal carpets from the Caucasus Mountains.
For collectors who want the best investment, these antique rugs tend to appreciate quickly. One of these types is the most appealing. Further exploration of that category of collectible rugs ensues. An initial $10,000 purchase often yields an exciting art piece for the novice collector that serves as the basis for the ultimate, substantial collection.
Even those who lack ‘collector mentality’ enjoy a majestic antique rug collection. Collectible carpets have a profound impact on elegant home furnishing. People become proud owners of a collection of rugs by putting together carpets chosen for a high level of artistry that enhances the décor of their home. Connoisseurs joke that a collector continues to buy rugs when there are no more walls or floors in a home to display them.
The setting where weaving small collectible rugs takes place is different than that of oversize, room-size, and art-level carpets used to furnish large rooms in the home. European and Persian upper class of the 19th century, often commissioned the most talented village cooperatives and city workshops in areas like Tabriz, Sultanabad, and Kermanshah to weave large pieces.
These pieces exhibited the exquisite craftsmanship, artistic spirit, and mature innovation that garners a homeowner-collector’s response. Individual weavers, who were tribal, town, or city artisans, make smaller rugs used in the home. Small rugs have a broader array of color combinations and designs as well as a higher level of innovation and artistic expression.
Area rugs are the focus of the most serious rug collectors. Furnishing small spaces is also a delightful adventure for the homeowner-collector. Furnishing a home with 19th and early 20th-century art-level rugs typically, involves three to eight large pieces and sundry scatter rugs and runners.
The size of the carpets affects the budget. An investment of $100,000 to $500,000 is the expectation of those working with established galleries. The bottom line is substantially more for homeowner-collectors who want to start high-level collecting.
Shopping at a long-established and respected store instead of a local one is better for two reasons. An established gallery is likely to have a Full Exchange Guarantee policy that allows budding collectors to upgrade as their tastes mature.
A large gallery has a selection of rare handwoven rugs represented that are not available in local stores. Advice to a novice rug collector is to begin by studying rugs available online. Rug books provide broad exposure to the types of carpets.
They sometimes offer illustrations of rugs on the collectible level. The problem is many books are dated. The number of available rugs is less than it was ten to 20 years ago. Online shopping provides the novice with practical information about what is available.