Approaching its 30th anniversary Claremont Rug Company declared 2010 The Year of the Rug and recent sales at the Gallery and of a rare carpet at auction have dramatically reinforced the claim.
The most authoritative demonstration of the burgeoning interest in art level rugs was the recent sale of a 17th century Laver Kirman rug for $9.59 million at a Christies auction in London. The price, more than 20 times the estimate, was twice the highest price previous paid for a rug.
Coincidentally, Claremont Rug Company president Jan David Winitz had had just opened an exhibition and sale of a 175-rug collection of 19th century Oriental carpets with a remarkable provenance. The results have been no less astounding, with nearly 50 percent of the art-level collection having sold within the first month of the exhibition. According to Winitz, it has previously taken six to nine months to sell this number of rugs of similar distinction.
This is truly a collection that appeals to the best-of-the-best audience, he said. Art collectors are increasingly turning to antique rugs as an important, yet considerably under-valued segment of the collecting market. Last year, we had a couple of formal waiting lists for specific types of rugs; this year, we have 30 lists where aficionados have asked to be notified when a particular rug becomes available.
I the current collection, it has been the top rugs that have attracted the greatest initial interest. And many of the purchasers have then acquired several other rugs from out inventory at the same time to fill out collections or to use as wall art.
He said, Connoisseurs are recognizing that art-level 19th century rugs are the next segment of our market to be discovered, now that museum-level pieces are achieving record-breaking prices. They offer much of the allure of earlier pieces, but have the additional attraction that they can still be used on the floor.
Rugs from the 19th century at Claremont are valued between $20,000 to more than $500,000 per carpet.
Commenting on Christies Laver Kerman, Winitz said, The rug is known quite well in our field. It was first highlighted in Arthur Upham Popes groundbreaking book, A Survey of Persian Art in 1938, but even I am impressed that the recognition of the value of the best rugs is rising so quickly.
In the past three years, two rug price records were set for historic pieces. Museum-level Oriental rugs are strongly entering the arena of major art collectors. At the end of 2009, two historically important rugs sold for more than $4 million each, Winitz said. I remember the stir just a few years ago the first rug sold at auction for a million dollars. And now the interest levels have driven prices to nearly $10 million. Remarkable but consistent with the art market.
Claremont has acquired several major collections in the last five years. The interest in the Intercontinental Collection rivals that of the Hudson River Valley group of rugs in 2008, Winitz said. Clients are very serious about making sure that they are investing in pieces of superb artistic merit that are also tangible, precious assets. They know, as a recent article in the Financial Times pointed out, that there are only a finite number of great rugs left and they desire them for their own collections.
The current exhibit at Claremont
features rugs from a French art collecting family assembled over five generations and served as a focal point of its four principal residences:
The familys ancestral property, a chateau in the countryside outside Paris
An estate on the Italian Riviera
A villa near Rio de Janeiro and
A two-story penthouse apartment in Manhattan
Winitz, acknowledged as a leading global authority on antique Oriental rugs, said, The family members have been major art and rug collectors for 150 years. The matron told me that her family always viewed Oriental rugs as an art form equal and in many cases superior to other types of art.
Because relatively few rugs of art-level quality were woven during the 19th century and because the majority of them are held in private collections, there is great excitement when they come to market, he said. He noted that he has already completed four Whole Home Projects, where clients have focused on rugs from the Intercontinental Collection to place rugs throughout their residences. In total, he has completed 12 projects of this type in 2010, trending towards a five-fold increase over the past three years.
Another indication that 2010 is the Year of the Rug.