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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

You're the Curator

by Jerry Silverman

In a recent “Show and Tell” about “The Power of Color” I mentioned that I will be involved in the selection of rugs for an exhibition at the April ACOR VI to be held April 25-28, 2002, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The title of the exhibition will be “Rugs of Rare Beauty - from Midwestern Collections.” Some very generous collectors have sent me a great many pictures of rugs they believe are “rare” and “beautiful.”

And I’m inclined to agree.

But the room ain’t that large, folks.

So there will have to be a more rigorous standard. And that’s where you come in.

From what I’ve observed over the past couple of years, Turkotek’s contributors are just the folks to consider the following questions:

1) What do we mean when we say a rug is “rare?” For example, does a world class Marasali Shirvan qualify? There seems to be no special shortage of terrific looking Marsalis. You see pictures of them in books (e.g. the cover of the Straka Collection). Some are in private collections (e.g. the tasty ones in Oriental Rugs from Pacific
). But on any given day you could scour every rug shop in the country and probably not find a world class example. Let’s be careful not to fall into a semantic discussion of how rare is rare. Rather, let’s try to offer some examples of rare rugs from your own collections to illustrate your point. Perhaps this Beshir prayer rug
fragment indicates what I’m getting at.

2) How do we recognize “beauty” in a rug? I’m looking for more definitive than “it’s in the eye of the beholder.” Of course it is. But the audience at the ACOR VI exhibition won’t be composed of an unwashed mass of rug novices. There will be some highly trained eyes examining these pieces. It is possible for a relatively homogeneous group like that to form a consensus about the beauty or lack thereof of a particular piece. They must be agreeing on something. I’d like your opinion about where the area of agreement lies. Is it color (my favorite)? Design? Craftsmanship? Balance? Contrast? Monumentality? Subtlety? Sublimeness? Is it really indefinable? Or is it like Justice Potter Stewart said, “I know it when I see it.” He was talking about obscenity, but there are parallels.

3) Should there all the rug-weaving areas be represented? Or should we do as the NFL coaches recommend on Draft Day and “pick the best available player?” (There will be a separate exhibition of Baluch pieces, so for the sake of cooperation this exhibition won’t have any.)

4) Should we venture beyond rugs and bags to include other rare and beautiful textiles? What if a great feathered Meso-American cape came our way? Or a early-19th century Mexican serape? Or a First Phase Chief’s Blanket? Or a Coptic roundel? Or an Amish quilt? Include them or not?

5) Can rugs with synthetic dyes be considered? Or is the presence of so much as a single knot of faded fuschine enough to disqualify?

6) Could a new rug that was sufficiently rare and beautiful qualify? Or does age really matter? Does the use of a rug add something to our perception of its beauty?

7) I think we can probably already agree that condition is of secondary importance. A tattered relic of profound beauty surely would be acceptable to you all, wouldn’t it?

So that’s the challenge. Refine the terms “rare and beautiful” to a point where they are useful in choosing the pieces for this exhibition.

Or just abandon the field and let me and my committee decide.