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[This article originally appeared on page 16 of the July 2013 print issue of Rug News andDesign Magazine.]

Sotheby’s sold the 17th (LATE 16TH EARLY 17TH) century rug illustrated for a hammer price of $30 million.

Peter Pap represented the under-bidder, a private collector, for this rug. Remember, at auction it is the under-bidder who sets the price by dropping out.

Rug News andDesign asked Peter “Why $30 million?”

Lot 12 The Clark 'Sickle-Leaf' vine scroll and palmette carpet, probably Kirman, South Persia, 17th century, approximately 8ft. 9in. by 6ft. 5in. (2.67 by 1.96m.) from the Collection of William A. Clark on behalf of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  Est. $5/7 million, sold for $33,765,00 at auction. Peter Pap was bidding on behalf of the under bidder - a US collector. This auction demonstrated that classical caprets can start to achieve the same prices as fine art.
Lot 12 The Clark ‘Sickle-Leaf’ vine scroll and palmette carpet, probably Kirman, South Persia, 17th century, approximately 8ft. 9in. by 6ft. 5in. (2.67 by 1.96m.) from the Collection of William A. Clark on behalf of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Est. $5/7 million, sold for $33,765,000 at auction.
Peter Pap was bidding on behalf of the under bidder – a US collector. This auction demonstrated that classical carpets can start to achieve the same prices as fine art.
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There were two basic answers: the piece itself, and the context in which it was sold.

Pap: the piece is fantastic, it is the only one of its kind in red, it is the pinnacle of artistry, the pinnacle of design, with four layers of vines, tendrils and leaves, in good condition and historically important.

The context of the marketplace is built on two factors: private sales and public auctions. Recently, another vase carpet not as old and not as important sold at auction for $9 million. From Pap’s perspective, this piece would likely sell at 3 times the value of the $9 million dollar piece to put the two pieces in the proper relationship.

Achieving this kind of price ($30m), means that “rugs have finally achieved the same status as great paintings, and the prices are in line with great paintings in the context of great works of art in other disciplines” according to Pap.

In the auction were other 17th century pieces that generally brought two to four times the high estimate. This Pap perceived as a marketing strategy by the auction house to build interest because the general audience for the sale knew that the pieces were undervalued. Equally, being able to say that you bought a rug at the Corcoran Gallery auction is a status symbol. Pap commented that the 17th century Isphahans that sold between $100,000 and $300,000 were the decorative export rug of the day.

I asked Pap what he thought of reproductions as representative of the classical pieces themselves. He said that “Woven Legends makes reproduction Cairene and Mameluke rugs that are credible pieces”. He also noted that many classical carpets would not be popular even if you reproduced them today.

Peter Pap is a rug dealer who works with collectors but still sells a lot of rugs deemed collectible to high end customers as a high end decorative rug. He finds that since the recession, his market has moved more to smaller village and nomadic pieces rather than larger decorative carpets. Questions and comments: [email protected]

[Nourison is offering a limited edition replica of this rug, just in time for the July 2013 Atlanta Market. Read their full press release here.]

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