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Global expert says art collectors reach out for "best-of-best" antique Oriental rugs
Jan David Winitz also cites influx of foreign buyers, new museum exhibitions, relatively modest prices.

OAKLAND, CA.- Jan David Winitz, internationally recognized Oriental rug expert and founder of Claremont Rug Company (, today cited two recent events that indicate a significant recognition by art and antique collectors of the best-of-the-best antique carpets from the Near East.

Winitz pointed to:

• The recent world record price of $33.7 million paid at a Sotheby’s auction for a 17th century Oriental rug.

• An eight-page editorial feature article in the August edition of The Robb Report Collection magazine highlighting rugs from the Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving (ca. 1800 to ca 1910).

“They are reflections of a knowledgeable interest and appreciation,” he said, “of what has long been apparent to the inner circle of my global client base which is comprised of art and antique connoisseurs.”

Winitz, the author of “The Guide to Purchasing an Oriental Rug,” said the Sotheby’s auction on June 5 was one in a series of events, stretching back nearly a decade where record prices and interest had captured the attention of the broader art world. At the same time, he said, “prices for highly collectible to museum-level rugs had remained at relatively modest prices when compared to other treasured arts and antiques.”

Prior to the sale of the Safavid ‘Sickle Leaf’ Persian rug, the record price paid for an antique Oriental rug was a $9.59 million bid for 17th century Kirman sold at Christie’s in 2010. “While we have been experiencing a strong demand among our art-collecting clients for more than a decade,” said Winitz, “a significant first ‘inkling’ of a more dramatic change in the market was the response to our acquisition and sale of the Hudson River Collection in 2008. The initial segment of the trove was more than 200 pieces which sold out within six months.

“A decade ago it might have taken as much as 18 months for that to happen. This quickened pace of acquisition by our clients continues, with two more of our globally significant collections also having sold out in relatively short time periods,” he said.

“The value of having a vast inventory built over three decades allows us to serve as a global source,” said Winitz, who opened Claremont in 1980 and has a coterie of a dozen global buyer/collectors who seek out rugs for clients. “We have also noted a heightened interest from non-U.S. buyers, including from Russia and other former Soviet Republics.”

Winitz said that the heightened interest was partially being spurred on by and a result of spectacular new permanent galleries of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at the Louvre in Paris as well as smaller, first time exhibits in several other U.S. museums.

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.

Knowledgeable art and antique connoisseurs are attuned to changing conditions in the market as well as the reality of the paucity of museum-quality rugs, he said. “Frankly, there are virtually no important rugs from the ‘First Golden Age’ available and the finest rugs from the ‘Second Golden Age’ are rapidly being purchased and placed into private collections.”

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

Winitz said that his international client base includes “art collectors who are constantly looking for top-tier rugs from the ‘Second Golden Age’. I am comfortable in saying that in the first half of 2013 that we experienced one of the best years in our history.

“This is a product of the emotional and value sides, both of which are important to collectors,” he said. “I recently had a client in Manhattan remark to me that the rugs that he had acquired at a cost in the low six figures to complement a seven-figure contemporary oil painting brought him more enjoyment than the painting itself.”

In the Robb Collection interview, Winitz told editor Shaun Tolson “…great rugs were made as a universal expression to help us to look at everything in a deeper fashion, and I think that’s exactly what’s being discovered.”

Looking ahead, Winitz said it was important for collectors to note that all of the rugs at the Sotheby’s “Masterworks” auction sold at four to five times their estimates. “Combining all the factors and adding the reality of diminishing availability of ‘Second Golden Age’ pieces,” he said, “suggests that first-caliber antique Oriental rugs have moved unequivocally from an undiscovered art form to the precious tangible asset category.”

Winitz also noted that many private collections are international and multi-generational and “there is a tremendous passion among connoisseurs who are looking for specific weaving groups or color palettes.”

In the end, however, he told Robb Collection, “rugs are more like Joyce than Hemingway; they’re meant to be read over and over again.”

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