President’s Letter 2021 Year-End Review
(2022 review will be published in early January)
2021 Sales Show Greatly Heightened Interest in High-Collectible & Connoisseur-Caliber Rugs
Entering our 42nd year at Claremont Rug Company, I will again share my annual recap of what transpired in the antique Oriental rug market in 2021 and a look at what to expect in 2022.
Having worked since the start of the pandemic to dynamically reinvent our brick-and-mortar business into an 80% online shopping experience supported by free two-way shipping on approval domestically, last year we experienced our number of new clients internationally surge 50%. We also welcomed back a record number of return clients. The number of rugs sold increased more than 25% over 2020’s extremely strong performance.
And more than ever, our domestic and international clientele as far afield as Australia, Lebanon, and Hong Kong acquired our rarely found Connoisseur-Caliber and High-Collectible carpets at a much-accelerated pace (see our “Oriental Rug Market Pyramid” below.)
The ongoing global pandemic has impressed upon the majority of us the ascension of the home as a sanctuary, and our clients are giving a much higher priority to the profound enjoyment of personalizing their residences. A greatly increased number of clients are using antique area-size art rugs throughout the home on floors, with wall displays taking a significant uptick. The many photos this year that our clients sent us of their new carpets in place clearly elucidated that well-selected antique rugs work smashingly in contemporary decors as well as traditional ones.
Uncovering a sufficient number of outstanding pieces to satisfy our impassioned clientele became our central challenge last year. Thankfully, the buying network we have created and nurtured over more than four decades affords Claremont the ability to offer a widely stocked inventory of Level 2 through 4 rugs in the most important Persian and tribal styles.
Our longtime clients selected these two rarely found High-Collectible Bakshaish carpets as part of the extended suite of art-level 19th century rugs that grace their beautifully curated Mediterranean style home.
In contrast, the major U.S. and European auctions revealed gravely diminished inventories of pieces above the “High-Decorative” level on our Rug Pyramid. Seeing this makes me incredibly grateful for the breadth and depth of our collection.
2021 Sales Reflect Tastes in Antique Rugs Globally
Sales in 2021 of antique tribal rugs rose 40% over the previous year! Major players continue to be 19th-century pieces from the Caucasus Mountains and South Persian tribal traditions, especially intricately woven Qashqais. Among area-size floral rugs, antique Hadji Jallili and other Tabriz styles were the clear front-runners, up over 50% over 2020, while sales in other Persian city rug styles, such as Mohtasham Kashans and Tehrans, increased significantly as well.
Many clients enthusiastically assembled extended suites of rugs and Whole Home Collections using oversizes, room sizes and area sizes, with considerably more emphasis on showcasing small rugs on floors and walls than ever before.
Of all room-size styles, extremely hard-to-find early Bakshaish carpets again topped our list of “most sold” by far. Clients also purchased Level 2 and 3 room-size Tabrizs, Serapis, and Ferahan Sarouks at a notably increased rate.
Among High-Decorative (Level 4) room-sizes popular for heavily used spaces and among younger buyers, antique geometric Herizs repeated as the perennial favorite, followed by semi-formal Sultanabads. Finally, sales of oversize and palace-size carpets (11×15 to 16x 30) saw a substantial jump of 35% from 2020. Those sales were topped by exquisitely formal 19th century Laver Kirmans followed by Sultanabads woven circa 1850 to 1920.
Antique Rugs Becoming a Real Alternative Asset
Art has become solidified as a vital portion of personal investment portfolios: According to Deloitte’s 2021 Art and Finance Report, “In 2014, only 53% of wealth managers believed art should be included as part of a wealth management service… with 85% of wealth managers saying so in 2021.” Citigroup’s Global Art Market reports contemporary artwork outperforming the S&P by 174%.
In earlier eras, families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and Hearsts amassed great numbers of now all but unattainable Museum Level rugs. Today, the finest antique rugs are definitively included in this ever-strengthening interest in art investment, as shown by the rapidly growing number of Claremont clients who are putting their surplus rug inventories in dedicated in-home rug vaults. Also, the number of rugs our clients purchased and arranged for us to hold at our unit in an art storage facility doubled in 2021.
Persian Mohtasham Kashan, 4’ 8” x 7’ 5”
Early 19th Century, High-Collectible
Caucasian “Cloudband Kazak”, 4’ 2” x 9’
Circa 1850, High-Collectible
Turkish Melas, 3’ 8” x 5’ 9”
Circa 1800, High-Collectible
Be sure to visit our 11th annual online exhibition entitled “Best Of Their Type Rugs Sold in 2021,” presenting 50 incredibly rare and astounding carpets our clients purchased last year (including the three above). This special event runs from Friday, January 21 to Friday, March 25 on our website.
Dynamic Press & Communication with Clients
Discernibly more clients than ever before have discovered that using area-size rugs throughout the house brings them tremendous pleasure. We admired their dexterity at harmoniously combining tribal, village, and formal rugs in marvelously creative ways. Striving to heighten the aesthetic appeal of their home offices, a great many chose small rugs for the walls and floors as an element in achieving this.
Our frequent Friday eblasts of articles I have written continue to support clients’ rapid immersion in our field, increasing their rug acumen and fueling their confidence as buyers at all levels. In 2021, I wrote two significant articles contributing to rug scholarship: “Imagination, Spontaneity, and Balance: The Magic of Bakshaish Artistry” (see here) and “The Allure of Antique Persian Camelhair Carpets” (see here). We also published online an expanded version of an article I wrote early in my career, “The Qashqai Weavers, Spirited Nomads” (see here).
Using area-size antique rugs throughout the home exploded in popularity among our clients last year.
Our 2020 revival story was featured in both UK’s CEO Today Magazine (“Dynamically Reinventing A Luxury Business In The Midst Of A Pandemic”) (see here) and San Francisco Business Times (“The Art of the Pivot: Rug Store Turns to Innovation to Survive Pandemic”) (see here). I was also centrally interviewed by Private Air/Luxury Homes Magazine for an article entitled “Wallflowers: Interest Grows in Displaying Rare Rugs As Fine Art” (see here).
CEO Today Magazine (UK) wrote in great detail about our pandemic re-invention last year. Read it here.
My wife, Christine, and I did extensive research for the comprehensive article on antique Bakshaish rugs I wrote last year, including rare pictures of the area. Read it here.
Claremont’s ‘Era of Greatly Enhanced Client Engagement’ blossomed in 2021 as we regularly brought rugs into our clients’ homes through Zoom and FaceTime calls, often to prospective buyers on the other side of the world. In last year’s letter, my comments have borne out that “there will be intensified acquisition by both US and international collectors and art lovers for both Level 2 and Level 3 rugs.
My Prediction Comes True and Our Expectations for 2022
After the accelerated response in 2020 and an even more pronounced upward trend in 2021, I believe my longtime prediction that we will be the last generation to have access to high-level 19th-century rugs will fully come to fruition in 2022.
Like the scant availability of Renaissance paintings today, access to all artistic traditions has a finite lifespan. We are now seeing the window of availability to the finest examples from The Age of The Oriental Art Carpet, after over 3,000 years, is in the process of closing.
Meanwhile, the ardor for collecting is unprecedented, and the passion to view and own magnificent pieces goes unquenched. I expect even more seasoned aficionados from both across North America and worldwide to find us or return to us this year, interested in assembling or expanding their own significant troves.
Despite the scarcity of true antique art rugs on the international market, I am confident that our extensive network of private buying resources, which we have built and nurtured over nearly a half-century, will continue to afford us with a significant number of Connoisseur-Caliber, High-Collectible, and occasional Museum-Level rugs that satisfy the tastes of our astute clientele.
As they both excite and edify our clients, we aim to continue our New Arrivals and Educational eblast programs this year with a slightly different rhythm, most likely arriving in your inbox one to two times per month. We are looking into invitations to join online forums and give interviews. If we succeed in cloning ourselves, we also hope to create a series of videos on various topics related to the acquisition and appreciation of this art form.
We are in the final stages of redirecting the emphasis of our Claremont 2 store, located next door to our two-building, three-showroom main complex in Northern California. This gallery will focus on tribal and village rugs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to use throughout the home. These informal pieces have been traditionally underemphasized and significantly undervalued but now are widely sought after. These are indeed the last vestiges of this millennia-old artistic tradition and maintain a palpable spark of its remarkable spirit.
There is one other observation from 2021 I will mention now. For both those new to carpet collecting and those more seasoned, antique rugs provided a welcome counterbalance of peace and harmony in an otherwise unsettling world. The outer circumstances may change, but the role of antique rugs in supporting our psychological health is not ephemeral. It’s just that in times like today, their support is yet more welcome.
Collectors of one-in-the-world pieces, such as this circa 1825 Bakshaish Phoenix Rug, are creating inimitable treasuries for posterity.
Don’t Miss Our 11th Annual Online Retrospective, “50 Best-of-Their-Type” Rugs Sold in 2021 | Click Here to View
View Over 1000 Art-Level Antique Rugs in our Online Inventory | Click Here
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