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Decorative Islamic Arts Popular among Auction Buyers

Tehran, May 26 (CHN) - William Robinson is the director of the Islamic and Carpet Department of Christie's Auction House, who amidst his busy schedule of several meetings, taking a tour of the Manouchehri Street (the center of Iranian art dealers shops), and the Iranian Museum of Contemporary Arts in his second and final day of stay in Tehran, accepted to have an interview with us at his lunch time.

Mr. Robinson who showed a great interest in and had a knowledge of the objects of art and manuscripts he saw in Manouchehri street explained to us during his tour of the shops that some objects are cheaper and some more expensive compared to the Christie's prices. According to him, for example the great price difference between a large and small tile does not exist in Christie's auctions, with even the smaller tiles being more popular with the buyers. He explained to us that the size of the works presented for sale counted a lot, with smaller ones that could be used for decorative purposes were easier to be sold.

For the interview, we talked to him on the situation of Islamic arts and carpets and specially that of the Iranian works in Christie's auctions.

- Mr. Robinson, What's your area of specialty in Christie's?

My work covers a time span from the beginning of Hejira up to the 20th century, including the entire world under the Islamic rule or influence.

- How does Christie's present Islamic Arts for sale?

We have 4 sales or actually 2 groups of 2 sales for Islamic Arts annually. One is held in April and the other in October. During one week time, we have one high quality sale and one low quality sale. The High quality sale includes a usual number of 250 with an average sale of 12,000 pounds for each item and of 2.5 million pounds for the total collection. The low quality auction includes some 500 items with an average sale of 800 pounds for each item and 400,000 pounds for the total collection.

- What about the Iranian works of art?

Iranian art works are presented in 3 groups of sales: One is within the Islamic Arts sales, which makes up to 30% of the objects of each collection. The second is among the sale of Oriental Carpets, comprising 60% of the total collection, and the third one is the sale of antiquities with the Iranian art only having a 10% share.

- How is the situation of carpets sales in Christie's?

In the last 15 years, there has been a very good market for big room size carpets, specially the ones woven in the north west of Iran, Tabriz, and Sultan Abad. During the last 2 years modern carpets and smaller rugs have become popular too. Today people either like the really old works, or the brand new ones. Moreover, they are paying more attention to the design and colors of the works than the fineness of the weavings. What I have noticed is that carpets made today in Iran are much more targeted to the Western world.

- Who are the people most interested in Islamic arts and collections?

We have been seeing an increasing interest among the countries at the other side of the Persian Gulf. 95% of these peoples are buyers and 5% are sellers. Westerners, except for a few collectors, do not usually buy works. Because of the development of travel facilities people prefer to travel and see artifacts in their place of origin. Right now, tiles are especially popular for decoration.

- What changes have you noticed in the interests of buyers of Islamic arts in the past years?

The interest of buyers of the Islamic arts has moved away in the last 5-10 years from archaeological pieces to more modern decorative works. By modern, I don't mean contemporary, but rather newer compared to ancient archaeological works, for example, in recent years, we have high prices for metal works of the Safavid era. A torch stand with a height of nearly half a meter was sold for 160,000 pounds two years ago.

- Talking of prices, what has been the most expensive Islamic item sold so far by Christie's?

3.63 million pounds for a Spanish Islamic 10th century bronze deer which was around 50 centimeters. We sold the piece in April 1997 and it is the highest price of an Islamic art work not just for Christie's but all along the field.

- What about the Iranian Islamic works?

I believe that the most expensive Iranian Islamic work was a carpet which holds also the world record for carpet auction. The carpet which sold for 1.57 million pounds in 1999 has been woven in the second half of Shah Tahmasb Safavi reign in Tabriz. It belonged to Rothschild family of Vienna, who are a Jewish wealthy banker family. Their collection was formed in the 19th century, but in the 2nd World War, Nazis seized their property and the collection was kept in the Museum of Applied Arts of Vienna until the end of 1999 when they were returned to the family who decided to put them for sale.

... Payvand News - 5/28/05 ... --

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