In 2010 a rug with historical significance sold for very close to the $10MM at auction. It was an exquisite blue 17th century Kerman and its sale more than doubled the previous world record for rug prices. Then, in June of this year, another spectacular Kerman rug reached an amazing auction price of $33.8MM!
These astonishing values have been for historical rugs; that is 17th and 18th century rugs that have been known and long established as jewels in the world’s best rug collections. During this period, values of 19th century rugs have risen only modestly, even as specimen pieces have become increasingly difficult to find. However, there are increasing signs in the market that demand for good quality rugs from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is starting to percolate.
Our field is experiencing a level of media coverage not previously seen that consistently emphasizes antique Oriental rugs as an art genre. Coverage of the $33MM rug sale appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Worth Magazine, The Washington Post and BBC News as well as in syndicated stories written by many other media outlets.
Wealthy individuals are beginning to buy large rugs for their homes and offices and the supply of good, especially, oversized rugs is dwindling. Added to this decorative demand are greatly expanded Islamic galleries in major museums around the world. The principal driver in rising prices, however, is new museums around the Persian Gulf that are on acquisition binges to collect Islamic art. Both of the record busting rugs noted above were bought by oil rich Emirs and donated to museums in the United Arab Emirates.
To quote Jan Winitz, noted rug scholar and connoisseur, “This incredible groundswell of activity, unlike anything I have experienced in my 33-year career, leads me to believe that we are now entering “The Era of the Rug,” in which not only historical pieces, but also first-quality Oriental rugs will play a more central role in the market for art and antiquities.”
I have seen much ebb and flow in the markets for Oriental rugs in my own 46 years in the rugs business. But I now feel, coming off of the latest recession, that this may be not only a once in a generation opportunity to acquire fine, old Oriental rugs, but possibly the last chance to buy investment quality decorative carpets at reasonable prices.
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