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World Record Price Confirms that Rug Collecting
is Entering Upper Echelon of Art Collecting

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  • Wall Street Journal

June 5, 2013 – Jan David Winitz, internationally recognized Oriental rug expert and founder of Claremont Rug Company, today said the world record price bid today of $33.7 million for a “remarkably crafted, miraculously preserved and awe-inspiringly beautiful” from the first half, 17th century confirmed that “best-of-the-best” carpets are now entering the upper echelon of art collecting.

The Southeast Persian carpet, likely woven in the city of Kirman, was sold at an auction in New York conducted by Sotheby’s and was part of a selection of 25 carpets in the sale. Total sales for the event exceeded $43 million.

“I expected that the piece would draw strong bidding,” he said, “but this price which is more than three and one-half times higher than the highest previously paid for a rug is truly phenomenal. The Safavid ‘Sickle Leaf’ Persian rug from the collection of William Andrews Clark is well-documented in the Oriental rug literature. The auction comes at a time when art collectors are increasingly interested in the best-of-the-best historical Oriental rugs, which are almost entirely in museum collections and rarely come to market.

“As I commented three years ago when Christie’s sold a 17th century Kirman at auction for the previous record price of $9.59 million, there is a thirst for the great art created in the Near East. Collectors recognize two periods, the First (ca. 1500 to ca. 1700) and Second (ca. 1800 to ca. 1910) Golden Ages of Persian Weaving, as the eras when the artistic skills and cultural traditions existed to produce art at its most profound level. I have no doubt that this sale is a precursor of a movement to come: the recognition that the best Oriental rugs woven in the 16th through 19th centuries stand on par with the highest valued art works of other mediums.”

All of the rugs in the auction sold at more than the pre-sale estimated prices, many at 4-5 times the valued predicted.

Winitz, the author of “The Guide to Purchasing an Oriental Rug,” said that his international client base of “art collectors are constantly on the lookout for top-tier rugs from the Second Golden Age which can serve both as wall art and as complements to the other forms of fine art that they collect. We have created actual waiting lists for a number of our clients.

“Frankly, there are virtually no important rugs from the First Golden Age available except in the auction setting,” he said. “And the number of highly collectible Persian carpets and Caucasian rugs from the Second Golden Age is rapidly being purchased and placed into private collections. In the last decade, we have been privileged to acquire and make available to our clients most of the major collections of art-level pieces from the Second Golden Age.”

Background facts:

  • Highlight, rug of historic importance, well-documented, in reportedly extraordinary condition
  • Safavid (8-9 x 6-5) “Sickle Leaf” from the first half of the 17th century
  • Before this sale was part of the William A. Clark Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (“Important Carpets from the William A. Clark Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art”), primarily 16th and 17th century pieces
  • Estimated at $5-$7 million, highest estimate ever for an Oriental rug
  • Current record price is $9.59 million for a 17th century Kirman “vase” rug, sold at Christie’s (London), 2010
  • In the June 5 Sotheby’s auction (New York), 25 rugs in entire sale