2019 Year End Overview
A PARTICULARLY VIBRANT YEAR FOR HIGH-END ANTIQUE ORIENTAL RUGS
As we enter 2020, we are both tremendously exhilarated and, frankly, trying to catch our breath after the elevated level of activity we experienced last year.
Great Enthusiasm for High-Collectible Rugs
In my 2018 year-end letter I wrote: “I expect Connoisseur-Caliber and High-Collectible rugs to escalate as a central emphasis of clients in 2019.” What transpired exceeded even these expectations! Sales of High Collectible rugs—the finest we have access to–increased by a whopping 68%! Of our total 2019 clientele, 65% strategically bought at least one Level 2 or Level 3 rug among their purchases. Such wholesome interest reflects a growing recognition that in no way were all Persian rugs “woven equally”.
Phenomenally, the number of High-Collectible Bakshaishs, Mohtasham Kashans, Serapis and Caucasians we sold all increased from 125% to over 150% above 2018, while the number of High-Collectible Ferahan Sarouks sold increased by over 250%! Sales of Level 2 Hadji Jallili Tabriz and related Laver Kirmans and Kermanshahs held steady, even though top-tier examples were woven less often in these styles.
High-Collectible sales from our “Potomac Collection”, a 130-piece offering of a stellar, three-generation family compilation of 19th century carpets were remarkably brisk, as we placed 90% of these extremely rare pieces in the first two months of this event. Private sales of first-rate rugs from smaller caches we acquired met with a similar rapid response.
I believe interest in our highest level of carpet soared for two reasons: the artistic sensitivity of our ongoing and many new clients continuing to mature, and our ceaseless, uncompromising acquisition process focusing on best-of-the-best rugs that virtually never arise on the general market. Truly a happy symbiosis!
For a visual feast and study in the artistic heights achieved by the most monumental Oriental rugs woven in the 1800s, don’t miss our annual online retrospective, “50 Best of Their Type Carpets Sold in 2019”, that will open on January 10, 2020 for two months.
The Movement in Antique Rugs is “From the Top Down”
Two Museum-level 17th century Isfahan carpets woven in a Safavid atelier sold for $5.14 million and $4.92 million respectively at Christie’s London on May 2, 2019, each more than five times their high estimates. These sales strengthened the top 10 most expensive Oriental carpets sold in auction, the highest price reached being $33.7 million. Note that the only three 19th century rugs in this auction that I identified as High-Collectible all sold for over three times their high estimates.
As I commented about this auction on Morningstar, “There are virtually no important rugs from the First Golden Age available except in the auction setting…And the number of High-Collectible rugs from the Second Golden Age of Persian Rug Weaving (circa 1800-1910) is rapidly diminishing as they are being purchased by enthusiasts and placed into private collections.”
Many clients are now gravitating to extremely artistic, circa 1850-1890 Connoisseur-Caliber rugs because they anticipate that just as High-Collectible rugs have filled the void left by the inaccessibility of Museum-Level rugs, these Level 3 carpets will, at some point, be considered the rarest Oriental rugs available. Connoisseur-Caliber rugs had a steady following last year, as 65% of our clients took home from 1-25 pieces at this level.
High Decorative and Decorative Rugs Included in Many Projects
Sixty-three percent of our clients selected at least one piece from these beautiful, non-collectible carpets from the end of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century to furnish the most heavily trafficked areas of their homes.Herizs, Mahajiran Sarouks and Laver Kirmans were again their favorites.
Whole Home Collections Built Across the Country
The number of clients assembling Whole Home Collections that include the major rooms of the residence as well as many secondary spaces continued to be robust in 2019, from Nantucket to Florida, from the California Wine Country to Tennessee. Clients saw that the ease of shopping on our website, having access to our seasoned rug consultants, and shipping on approval–bolstered by our logistics partners who can unpack and lay out rugs in most major areas of the country–made even building extended suites of rugs much more convenient. Last year, the long-distance selection of palace-size carpets also saw an uptick.
Our Storage Services and Client Rug Vaults Increased
Another major development in client requests has been a burgeoning interest in acquiring rugs for storage and future use by themselves, children and grandchildren. They are storing rugs either with us (we currently have 765 client rugs in our art storage unit) or by placing them in rug vaults that they had assembled in their own residences. For one client, we have 280 High-Collectible pieces in storage. Two other clients have 325 and 255 cellared in rug vaults in their homes.
Often clients will dedicate a large closet or utilize a small room which they line with cedar. We now have 18 clients who have built rug vaults, 16 in the U.S., and one each in Italy and Australia.
Other Trends We Experienced
Our comprehensive website provides a thorough education about antique art carpets, as many of our new clients told us. Along with our “Oriental Rug Market Pyramid”™ (if you haven’t read it yet, we greatly encourage you to do so here), they studied our website gallery and combed over our EDUCATION and PRESS sections. By the time they shopped with us, many were well-versed in various aspect of antique rugs, which, along with the consultations we offered, enabled them to comfortably make informed purchases.
A few years ago, in the Financial Times’s “Where There’s A Wall” article,I reported that because they are awe-inspiring when viewed vertically, our clients began acquiring antique Oriental rugs to hang as wall art, which also offers a fool-proof method to maintain especially precious pieces. In 2019, along with putting 25% of the smaller rugs they purchased on their walls, clients also used them on the floor to frame their dining tables, embellish large passageways or outside a seating area for unobstructed viewing.
To our delight, 2019 saw quite a phenomenal number of clients returning to Claremont–sometimes after decades–to furnish their dream homes. Also, after more than 20 years of East Coast and Midwest projects dominating our in-home rug presentations, the West Coast kept us much busier last year, with in-home rug showings to both old friends and first time buyers from San Diego to Seattle. Our client base throughout the Southern States also grew significantly.
Looking Forward to 2020
This year, I envision our clients’ longtime love affairs with Caucasian rugs extending to superb folkloric pieces from other tribal groups: the finely woven Qashqais and the charming Afshar rugs of South Persia, as well as the spirited Kurdish rugs of Northwest Persian Azerbaijan. The finest antique pieces from these illustrious weaving traditions reveal an original character that celebrate the rhythms, colors and energy of the natural environment in which the weavers lived.
As we enter a new decade and prepare to celebrate our 40th Anniversary this Fall, I expect to see the number of multi-rug suites and Home Collections increasing as our clients’ taste continues to become more refined and experimental. Happily, our access to long-held private collections is stronger than ever, promising to provide us with an ample number of rugs of a caliber that can seldom be seen elsewhere.
My wife, Christine, and I and our entire staff deeply love what we do, are extremely enthusiastic about the future and ever grateful to our clients who share our passion for this increasingly valued artform. Our sincere thanks to you for being part of the Claremont family.
We offer you our best wishes for 2020, and look forward to the great privilege of serving you.