LONDON - The scene today at the International Art & Antiques Fair in Kensington’s Olympia was that of excitement. As Hali, the renowned carpet collectors’ magazine, has reopened its section in the fair to a select group of dedicated carpet enthusiasts.

Not seen since 2006, this long awaited return was a great scene to behold for the budding specialist, as I have recently joined the Sotheby’s team. Ascending the stairs to the Gallery level on the first floor, the eye is drawn to the small, yet concentrated, group of stalls. The first that caught my attention was James Cohen Antique Carpets, whose stall shines with a Lakai Susani of impressive scale and plum colour. Opposite Cohen’s stall is that of the German auction house Rippon Boswell, displaying the second part of the renowned Vok collection, which is mainly comprised of Susanis. I offer to James the idea of the two facing off like the Saturday night prize boxing fight – Cohen vs. Boswell – but he assures it was more a (good natured) case of David and Goliath.

OIAAF15_Lakai-Suzani-embroidery_James-Cohen-Antique-Carpets
BORDER DETAIL OF A MID 19TH CENTURY MONUMENTAL LAKAI SUZANI EMBROIDERY, SILK AND WOOL ON SILK. 345 X 284CM.

My next stop was to the stall of Ramezani London Rugs, where in the catalogue I noticed an Anatolian, an 18th century Ladik prayer rug with wonderful saffron/sunflower coloured border and a Tekke main carpet dating from the third quarter 19th century and in wonderful condition. I paused briefly to have a sideways glance around, opposite was the stall of Cornucopia magazine, diagonally to my left our hosts Hali, and beyond a great Ziegler carpet of camel ground colour and with a crenulated red and blue medallion surrounded by spiralling motifs, part of Aaron Nejad’s stall. 


AN 18TH CENTURY GREEK ISLAND EMBROIDERY, SILK AND METAL THREAD ON MUSLIN DEPICTING TWO SCHOONERS LINED WITH SAILORS AND VARIOUS FANTASTIC BEASTS SWIMMING IN BETWEEN. FROM THE ISLAND OF SKYROS, SUCH EMBROIDERIES WERE DISPLAYED ON FEAST DAYS BY HANGING OVER THE BEAMS. ONLY A VERY FEW SURVIVE WITH SUCH WONDERFUL SUBJECT MATTER, ONE IN THE V&A IN SOUTH KENSINGTON AND TWO IN THE BENAKI MUSEUM IN ATHENS THAT I KNOW OF. 38 X 118CM. £20,000.

I wandered on to Brian MacDonald’s stall where I enjoyed his choice of works, ranging from 1900 and earlier, and here, found my favourite piece in the show – a Luri tribal Gabbeh with five ivory lozenges on a madder field surrounded by saffron, a heart-warming creation. MacDonald had lived with the tribes in Iran, the Afshar of Kerman province and the Qashqa’I of the Fars, which is where his passion originates. We discussed a lovely Turkoman Ersari main carpet he had on display with light rose red field with hanging tassels meant to bring the owner and visitors good luck.


A MINT CONDITION LATE 19TH CENTURY BAKSHIASH CARPET FROM NORTH WEST PERSIA (IRAN). IT IS A RARE EXAMPLE OF A DECORATIVE CARPET THAT HAS FULL PILE, BEAUTIFUL COLOUR AND A WONDERFULLY NAIVE STYLISED TREE DESIGN, WITH SMALL RENDITIONS OF ANIMALS. THE STRONGLY CONTRASTING SHADES OF MID TO LIGHT BLUE IN THE FIELD COLOUR ARE A HUGE PLUS POINT AND WORK VERY WELL WITHIN THE CARPET AND ALSO WITH INTERIORS, HELPING THE RUG TO BLEND IN AND BECOME NOT ONLY A FOCAL POINT FOR THE ROOM, BUT ALSO A HARMONIOUS BACKDROP. £30,000.

Of course to the seasoned collector, my observations will, perhaps, reveal nothing new. However, for those attending the International Art & Antiques Fair who have perhaps never fully explored the world of carpets or to complete novices, I hope this will encourage them to go and look, learn and have fun – after all isn’t that what it is meant to be about?


MEDALLION OUSHAK RUG, 16TH CENTURY, WESTERN ANATOLIA (TURKEY), JAMES COHEN
ANTIQUE CARPETS. COURTESY OLYMPIA INTERNATIONAL ART & ANTIQUES FAIR. £40,000.