The art market: High hopes floored by a carpetBy Georgina Adam
Published: March 28 2009 01:07 | Last updated: March 28 2009 01:07
There has been much coverage of the $5.5m paid for the lavish “Pearl carpet of Baroda” (pictured right) which Sotheby’s sold on March 19 in its new Doha, Qatar location. Predictions were that it could make $20m (£13.6m), but in the event it only just made its $5m estimate. What is more, specialists contest Sotheby’s claims that it sets a new world record for a carpet. “It is no more a carpet than is the glass mosaic Kazak rug that embellishes the grave of the ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, outside Paris,” says Danny Shaffer of the specialist antique rugs magazine Hali.
Carpets are generally defined as woven textiles that you can walk on without damaging them or your feet: the elaborate 19th-century Baroda piece (originally from the family of the Maharaja of Baroda, possibly commissioned for the tomb of the Prophet in Medina) has millions of seed pearls, semi-precious stones and coloured glass beads; Shaffer describes it as “costume jewellery gone mad”.
Sotheby’s said it had never appeared at auction before, which was true, but it has been knocking around the trade for decades, and was reportedly offered at an art fair for $1m about 15 years ago.