Re: visual arts - rugs and icons

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on May 23, 1999 at 14:38:02:

In Reply to: Re: visual arts - rugs and icons posted by R. John Howe on May 21, 1999 at 22:14:04:

: Mr. Leonard -

: First, as one of the "managing" group on Turkotek let me thank you for your nice comment in an immediately preceding post.

: Here you wrote in part:

: "It would be interesting to know whether many collectors of rugs (an art form in which individual amendment of standardised designs determines appearance) have moved on to e.g. icons (Russian, Greek or whatever); and how rug-appreciators stand in relation to art generally."

: My thoughts:

: Some rug collectors on this board have made comments recently suggesting that they have a knowledge of and perhaps collect in other areas. Steve Price and Michael Wendorf exchanged comments about African tribal artifacts. I don't know of an instance that moves in the one particular direction you mention (i.e., ikons) perhaps because except for the Caucasuses and perhaps Armenians in Turkey Christian influence in most rug-producing areas seems negligible (although cf. Gantzhorn, who sees Christian influences everywhere).

: In an article in Oriental Rug Review (Oct/Nov, 1992, pp.18-22) there is an inteview of an older Dutch rug collector, Jan Timmerman, who mentions in that inteview-article that he collects not only rugs but also old books, old glass bottles, antique Dutch skates, antique Chinese porcelain, and when he couldn't find antique skates of new types, Delft tiles with skaters and other ice activities on them. Now Mr. Timmerman is a wealthy man and so he is likely not typical excepting that he may be an example of how collecting interests such as rugs can progress.

: I do know that collecting interests change. Quite a few people are initially enormously attracted to many Caucasian rugs and then find later that ones that really attract them are harder to find.

: Now on your broader question, Christopher Alexander, whose aesthetic theories we recently discussed and experimented with on this board writes in his book, "A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art," that analogies to the use of color in oriental rugs can be found in many of the 19th and 20th century "colorists." He mentions Van Gogh and Gaugin but is especially struck by similarities to the work of Andre Derain, Matisse and Bonnard. Matisse is famously quoted as advising painters to examine the use of color in oriental rugs and Sargent is said to have given up attempting to paint a particular oriental rug in detail that was near his human model because he found it so beautiful that she could not compete with it. So there are those connections with painting.

: I know some rug collectors who have become seriously interested in the broader field of textiles. This apparently happened to Mr. Meyers who founded the Textile Museum here in Washington, D.C. And some others have become seriously interested in antique furniture, which make sense, since many of us first came to oriental rugs when we began to furnish with "antique" furniture.

: We sometimes look at other areas of visual art to attempt to determine where patterns in oriental rugs might come from. I posted some North African Roman era floor mosaics (Timgad Museum, Algiers) recently that were done in the 2nd to the 4th centuries A.D and looked very much like rugs.

: That's what I can think of quickly. Interesting question.

: Regards,

: R. John Howe


Further to your thoughtful posts:
1) I do not understand whether there is something particularly of interest concerning
icons; the only rug collector I can think of who also collects icons is John Hall, but he
is really more of a dealer in both.
2) There are a few people who collect other art forms aas well as rugs, but with few
exceptions, the Wolfs come to mind, they are not mainstream rug colectors. In Europe
perhaps the cross over is more common than in the States.
3) I myself started as a collector of Oceania.
4) With regard to the larger question an interview in Hali Issue 42, the 10 Year Anniversary
issue stands out in my mind. David Sylvester is an internationally respected writer on art
who curated the 1972 exhibition of the wonderful collection of Joseph V. McMullan later
published in Islamic Carpets and, in 1983, was co-curator of the equally distinguished
exhibition of "The Eastern Carpet in the Western World. Mr Sylvester has also curated a
Picasso exhibit at the Pompidou Center in Paris and London's Tate Gallery.
Mr. Sylvester mentions that he routinely enters dwellings whose inhabitants plume themselves
on the objects they have chosen to live with and on the taste exhibited in making those choices.
To quote him: "Again and again on such visits I find myself amazed that the taste which has chosen
those pictures, those bronzes, those chairs, has also chosen that carpet: it's like a meal in which
foie gras and crown of lamb are followed by canned fruit with imitation creme."
He then goes on to quote his colleague John Cohen of C. John fame who once told him the reason people
do not understand carpets is "because they go on the floor and people look down on them." Museums also
are criticised for not displaying carpets so they can be seen when they are exhibited or simply being
relegated as something less. This means consumers of art have little experience looking at rugs and carpets
as art. This also means that rug collectors, in my experience, stand outside the mainstream of other
art appreciators. Many of the uninitiated simply do not know how to look at rugs and think rug lovers
a bit of a quaint curiosity. As Sylvester, this is perhaps because for someone to know a carpet, he has to
have stood in the middle of it. The rise of folk art generally has helped to raise acceptance of some rugs
and more exhibitions would help, but on the whole it is my impression that a wide gulf remains and may, in fact,
be widening.
Kindest regards, Michael Wendorf

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