At the modern design auction house Wright, rugs have long suffered that classic rom-com affliction: always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Despite being the key focal point of most interiors, they’ve only played supporting roles in larger furniture auctions.
Earlier this summer, though, the Chicago and New York–based dealer is hosting its first sale devoted entirely to the genre: “20th Century Carpets,” comprising nearly 150 lots curated by Nader Bolour of Doris Leslie Blau, beginning with a late 19th-century animal-themed Indian tapestry and ending with contemporary kilims. There’s an incidental emphasis on Swedish rugs, particularly mid-century examples made by the manufacturer Märta Måås-Fjetterström.
To jazz up the sale’s catalog, Wright shot the images you see here, pairing some of its most beautiful lots with furniture and art by the likes of Jonathan Muecke and Ben Jones. Read more about it below in our interview with Wright’s Senior VP, Michael Jefferson.
What is Wright’s history with rug sales? Are they something you’ve previously put a spotlight on, or more of an item that you typically integrate into general sales? How do you see them fitting into Wright’s repertoire in general?
This is the first stand-alone carpet sale that Wright has done. However, we have included carpets in numerous sales throughout the last several years, including French Art Deco, Moroccan and Swedish examples. We have created chapters devoted to the work of Märta Måås-Fjetterström, and we’ve sold individual lots based on our own curatorial choices. Carpets fit very neatly into our repertoire since we sell the entire range of furnishings and artwork to our collectors.
What was the impetus behind this particular sale? Are rugs having a moment of some kind, or was this more motivated out of your desire to collaborate with Nader?
The impetus behind this sale is twofold: We’ve seen increased interest in the carpets that we put into our regular auctions, and our own knowledge of them has increased over the last few years. As we’ve ramped up the number of lots in our mixed sales, we’re now taking the leap in creating a standalone sale of carpets.
We don’t feel that these carpets are related to a moment or a fashion trend, since carpets in general have been part of domestic spaces for centuries. Nader has provided us with expertise that we lack, and we found a natural fit with our own aesthetics and his inventory. We see this as a very creative endeavor, changing the paradigm for how people perceive carpets and carpet sales.
Could you pick one item from this sale that has a particularly interesting backstory, and tell us a bit more about it?
One carpet with a particularly interesting history is Lot 604 (above), a rare late 19th-century Chinese carpet that comes from the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was originally placed in the Hall of Protecting Harmony, a grand space where the Emperor of China received scholars who had passed the highest level of civil exams. The design is inspired by Buddhism, and its motifs are symbolic. You see pearls in the pattern, the lotus flower, mythical animals. Every time I look at this carpet, I see something new. It is made out of silk, so it has an incredible feel and luster. It’s a traditional carpet, but it would look great in a modern interior and of course, it’s a piece of history.