Claremont Rug Company Says 2012 Was Bellwether Year for Antique Oriental Rugs

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Art dealer Jan David Winitz of Claremont Rug Company cites evidence that 2012 has been an important year for art collectors and investors who are increasingly becoming interested in 19th century Oriental rugs.

2012 is confirmation of our long-held belief of the artistic merit and collectability of this art segment.

A confluence of events over the past two years has created an increased enthusiasm for collecting Islamic Art, according to Jan David Winitz, eminent art dealer and president of Claremont Rug Company.

Citing the late 2011 opening of Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new gallery of Islamic Art as the key event, he said that art collectors have intensified their interest in rugs from the “Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving,” generally recognized as the period ca 1800 to ca 1910.

In 2012, Winitz pointed to opening of a major permanent exhibit at the Louvre. As well, he noted an important Islamic art collection newly on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and another soon to be opened at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He also noted that this year the de Young Museum in San Francisco began to display kilim rugs from its extensive collection of antique Oriental carpets for the first time in two decades.

“Added to that was our acquisition of ‘The Bostonian Collection,’ a trove of 180 rare antique rugs assembled by three generations of a New England-based family over more than a century of collecting,” he said.

Winitz, author of “The Guide to Purchasing an Oriental Rug,” believes that the current interest in historically important items is reshaping the international market for rare 19th century Persian carpets. He says “as this stunning art form has ascended the art radar, collectors have concentrated many of the most sublime pieces in privately held collections, making stellar antique Persian rugs increasingly difficult to find on the International market.”

The interest in Islamic art has also been the subject of feature stories in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. “For those of us who have been collecting rare antique rugs for generations,” said Winitz, “2012 is confirmation of our long-held belief of the artistic merit and collectability of this art segment.”

Winitz pointed that since the early Modernists, Western artists have explored the effect of color independent from design. Similarly, for millennia, rug weavers have been inspired to capture the multitudinous colors of the natural world to use in their abstracted patterns. In fact, especially the geometric rugs from the Caucasus Mountains are increasingly being hung on the wall. Winitz said in the Financial Times that “this is an apt form of display for tribal weavings that were studied by and provided inspiration to European modernists such as Matisse and to the Bauhaus artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.”

Highly respected Persian art carpet designs include the Laver Kirman from Southwest Persia, and the Hadji Jalili Tabriz, named after a master carpet designer in Northwest Persia in the 19th century, Winitz said.

He said, “These 19th century Oriental rug weavers, inhabitants of a pre-electronic age, unknowingly bestowed a gift on future generations whose lives they could not possibly have imagined -- lives besieged and distracted by information overload. The message of their art is that there are truths to be found beneath the surface of things.”

In 2010, Winitz wrote in the Chubb Collector’s Newsletter about, “a trend I have witnessed during the 40 years I have been collecting 19th century Oriental rugs is dramatically escalating at this time. While there is still a supply of 19th century decorative-level carpets on the international market, art-level antique rugs typically become available only when families divest long-held collections.”

An example of this is “The Bostonian Collection,” which contained many examples of carpets which would have “appeared in the literature” had they not been held by a single family for nearly a century. “Many of the rugs were bought at the source in the Near East in the 19th century and had not been seen outside the family until we acquired them,” Winitz said.

A video introduction to “The Bostonian Collection” can be accessed by pasting into your browser.

Winitz sees a growing recognition of this artistic medium that is resonating deeply with discerning artists and art collectors. However, “I firmly believe that the best art-level rugs occasionally found today will not be available to the next generation at any price.”

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