A Buyer’s Guide to Investing in Antique Rugs

Buyer's Guide to Antique Rugs for Investment - The Wall Street Journal

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Investing in Antique Rugs:

Buyer's Guide to Investing in Antique Rugs - For some time now we at Nazmiyal have been strong advocates for the investment potential of antique oriental rugs and vintage rugs. Tastes may change or evolve over time, but the best antique rugs have a classic quality that will never go out of style. With every passing day the rarity of such pieces becomes more special and precious, especially as the demand for them becomes ever more intense and competitive.

It would now seem that general awareness of this situation has finally reached critical mass. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has assembled the facts in stunning detail. Demand is now spiking astronomically in response to a new array of players within the rug market.

Investing In Antique Rugs by Nazmiyal
Investing In Antique Rugs by Nazmiyal

Newly founded museums in the Middle East and Europe underwritten by oil wealth have emerged as strong competitors in the quest to establish outstanding collections of Islamic art, among which carpets figure prominently.

The divide between modern and traditional décor has begun to dissolve as wealthy collectors of contemporary art are increasingly accustomed to placing fine antique carpets beneath the walls hung with abstract modern painting. As they witnessed the precipitous descent or collapse of inflated prices for trendy, contemporary art, these collectors have acquired a new appreciation for the more enduring value and appeal of historic antique decorative arts more generally, and with a strong focus on rugs and carpets.

Freud Rug
Antique Rug From the Collection of Sigmund Freud

As a result, quality antique rugs and carpets have suddenly begun to command prices that even the most committed and knowledgeable collectors and dealers could not have anticipated. The gradual recovery of the global art market and the larger world economy has undoubtedly played a role in this process.

Potential buyers are no longer quite so reticent to spend and invest, particularly the kind of wealth and celebrity collectors who had always constituted the main clientele for Oriental carpets. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out:

"Henry VIII owned several hundred Turkish rugs. Hans Holbein, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Sigmund Freud, who kept a rug draped over the couch where he conducted his psychoanalytic sessions, were Persian-rug aficionados."

Still, the rising price base of the rug market is not simply the result of a renewed competition among the former collectors. It represents the involvement of new buyers and even whole institutions that have considerably more resources than the older, traditional rug clientele. In addition, antique rugs have now come to be seen as full-fledged art works like painting and sculpture, no longer simply as artisanal decorative arts. This means that they have become attractive to fine art collectors and that they can command prices comparable to those realized by the works of the great masters. The Wall Street Journal has emphasized that

"Many buyers of modern art like television producer Douglas Cramer, a founder of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, are turning to tribal rugs speckled with jewel-toned, geometric shapes. Chicago real-estate developer Ron Benach, who owns pieces by Willem de Kooning and Gerhard Richter, is also a rug collector."

There is of course a certain cultural hierarchy that also affects the value of antique rugs. The more rustic tribal nomadic tribal and village rugs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries tend to go for prices from a few thousand dollars up to several hundred thousand. In contrast, the earlier and more refined rugs produced in the court workshops of the Turkish, Persian, or Mughal empires in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have now begun to command prices in the millions.

But antique rugs provide a remarkable window onto the social anthropology of earlier, traditional civilizations. There are also indications that a growing interest in cultural history and folklore has even begun to accelerate the rise of the best tribal and village rugs. Among the latter, Caucasian rugs have always tended bring a higher price because of their exceptional use of bold design and brilliant color, but competition has recently intensified, as the Journal article also indicated:

In July 2007, an anonymous collector paid Philadelphia auction house Freeman's $341,625 for a 5-foot-wide Caucasian rug called an Eagle Kazak. It was only priced to sell for up to $25,000.

In the light of this development, we at Nazmiyal would encourage our clients to consider the remarkable investment opportunity that antique rugs and carpets can still offer, while the escalation in price is still in its early stages.

With the experience of having built a first-rate collection of antique rugs for several decades now, we have a wide spectrum to choose from, all the way from the tribal or village rugsto the Persian workshop masterpieces of the nineteenth century, and earlier classical pieces as well.

The best indication of this is perhaps is the exquisite Sultanabad pictured here. It was acquired from the collection of Sigmund Freud's London residence. Nazmiyal is pleased to offer its clients the only rug from Freud's collection that is available for acquisition today.

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