Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chance to own a Francis Bacon (from his tufted period)

February 25, 2009

Chance to own a Francis Bacon (from his tufted period)

Roman Abramovich spent £43 million on one. Tate Britain has one hanging on its wall. Now it is possible to buy an original Francis Bacon for as little as a thousandth of the price of his most impressive works. The only catch: this one has been trampled on for years.

Bacon’s early life as a rugmaker is almost forgotten, and his output so small that an example held by the Victoria and Albert Museum was thought to be one of only three to exist. His rug oeuvre has suddenly increased, however, after an Iranian carpet dealer cleaned out one of her storerooms and took a pile of rugs to an auction house in Wiltshire.

Ian Bennett, a textile specialist at Netherhampton Salerooms, near Salisbury, was astonished to discover a pair of rugs that are believed to be the only surviving works from Bacon’s first exhibition of his own designs in 1929.

“This particular batch of rugs contained the usual mix of good, bad and indifferent, but there were a lot of them and initially they had to be gone through fairly quickly,” he told The Times. “All of a sudden, in the middle of a pile of Persian tribal weavings in varying stages of disintegration, there appeared two obviously European Modernist rugs, which I threw aside with an instant semi-automatic valuation of a few hundred pounds.

“Just as they were about to be covered up by other rugs, I vaguely noted the presence of writing at the bottom of each piece and suddenly what I had only half seen came into sharp focus. I said, ‘Hang on a minute!’. In large capital letters was the name Francis Bacon.”

Mr Bennett contacted the Authentication Committee of Francis Bacon, which responded that the rugs were not only authentic, but also possibly the only works from the artist’s 1929 exhibition that had not been destroyed by the artist or discarded.

Bacon had such a reputation for destroying his work that his gallery would pick up finished paintings while the paint was still wet. Rebecca Daniels, who is helping to compile the catalogue raisonné for Bacon, said that the design and ground colour of the Netherhampton rugs were unique.

Mr Bennett said that the Iranian dealer was unaware of the rugs’ significance, having bought them ten years ago from an elderly lady who had been using them in her hallway. “She thought they were impractical. She kept on tripping over them. She didn’t know what they were.”

Bacon was a teenager when he designed the rugs at his flat in West London. He had recently been thrown out of his family home by his father after he was found in front of a mirror posing in his mother’s underwear.

No records survive of the 1929 exhibition, but it was successful enough for Bacon to follow it up with a second one in 1930. A year or two later he gave up design to concentrate on painting.

Mr Bennett said that it was almost impossible to put a value on the rugs because none had been on the market in recent years. “I hope that each one will fetch a five-figure sum, but I haven’t the foggiest idea. There is no precedent. You never know. Roman Abramovich might want one.” The rugs will be auctioned on March 12.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Iranians are friendly, the land spectacular

Iranians are friendly, the land spectacular

Friday, February 20, 2009

I went because: I had heard many negative things about Iran from our media and I wanted to see and experience it for myself. Also, the art and architecture are so great.

Don't miss: Persepolis - this place is amazing. It was the Persian capital between 500 to 300 B.C. And they are still excavating.

Don't bother: Worrying about how Americans are treated. The Iranian people are very interested in speaking with Americans and learning about us. (And no alcohol for three weeks is not unbearable.)

Coolest souvenir: Two small (old, not new) Persian rugs.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

An antique rug. An antique rug. Photograph by: Museum of Costume and Textile, Museum of Costume and Textile It started serendipitously nine years a

An antique rug.
An antique rug.

Photograph by: Museum of Costume and Textile, Museum of Costume and Textile

An antique rug.

An antique rug.

Photograph by: Museum of Costume and Textile, Museum of Costume and Textile

It started serendipitously nine years ago. Giuseppe Di Leo and Jim Hampton, friends and fellow teachers at a Montreal high school, attended an auction of oriental rugs.

“We’d seen ads in the newspaper and wanted to know more,” Di Leo said. They each bought a rug and, says Di Leo, “probably paid too much.”

The experience implanted in them what Di Leo calls “the rug bug.” The two friends began studying and learning everything they could about oriental rugs and then they began collecting them.

Some of the rugs from their collections are on show until March 29 at the Museum of Costume and Textile of Quebec in St. Lambert.

The rugs hail from the Caucasus, the geographic region between the Black and Caspian seas that includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Dagehestan and Georgia.

The exhibition features 27 rugs, on loan from 10 collectors who are members of the Montreal Oriental Rug Society.

“This is a focused exhibition of rugs from that particular region,” says Di Leo, a co-curator of the exhibition with Hampton. “Caucasian rugs feature geometrical patterns: stars, flowers, plants and stylized animals.”

A few are kilims, meaning that they’re flat-woven, and the rest are pile rugs, he said.

And because they’re antiques, ranging in age from 100 to 150 years old, the colours come from natural vegetable dyes. “When you look at them, you’re mesmerized by the colour and geometric shapes, by the designs and materials,” Di Leo said.

Hampton describes himself as an eclectic collector. “I like Persian, Turkish, Caucasian and Turkomen rugs,” he said, adding that as a “rug hunter,” he finds his best treasures at estate sales. “Washington and Boston are where the really avid collectors are,” he said. “But the Montreal Oriental Rug Society has been going on since the 1970s, and we’re resurrecting it now.”

The society began having shows at Di Leo’s urging. Now an art teacher at Dawson College, he co-curated a show at the CEGEP last year.

Di Leo says he and his friend educated themselves about the rugs by reading, attending auctions and visiting rug dealers. “We wanted to know why there’s such a large price range in Oriental rugs,” he said. “To understand a rug, you must understand its structure, its colours and whether the warp and weft are in cotton or wool.”

The antique rugs were made by nomadic peoples. “These were individuals who were not sophisticated artistically but they were very strong in how they used colour and pattern. For them, creating rugs is an intuitive process,” Di Leo said. “The rugs speak to me. I wonder what the weavers were thinking while making them. Every knot has a thought in it. This is a matriarchal industry that gets passed down from mother to daughter.”

Di Leo and Hampton will be at the museum with several other collectors on Saturday, Feb. 7 to discuss the rugs. Anyone who owns an oriental rug and has questions they’d like answered is invited to take the carpets to the museum that day.

The Museum of Costume and Textile of Quebec is at 349 Riverside St., St. Lambert. It’s open from Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $4.