Rugs & Carpets

A Celebrated Collection of Rugs and Carpets

By Harry Grenfell

O n 7 November 2017 Sotheby’s London offered a selection of 22 works from the renowned and respected collection of celebrated architect and emeritus professor, University of California, Berkeley, Christopher Alexander.

The sale consisted of rare and early weavings from the courts of the Ottoman Empire, productions from the small villages and nomadic regions of Central Anatolia, amongst other works, which have become highly coveted by collectors. This group performed outstandingly well, achieving £1,484,375 against a pre-sale estimate of £236,200. On 23 April 2018 we are delighted to include the second and final instalment of this fantastic collection during London’s Islamic week.

The tremendous enthusiasm for the first group from the collection gives us cause to reflect on both these beautiful works of art and also the visionary who assembled them.

Christopher Alexander is not a household name but his work on architectural pattern language had a tremendous influence in the development of software. He has been called ‘the father of pattern language’, indeed the creator of the very first wiki, Ward Cunningham, lauds Alexander’s work as the foundation on which the technology was established. The Wiki ultimately led to the creation of the internet sensation Wikipedia.

Alexander’s work on Pattern also informed his own studies on the predominately early Turkish weavings within his collection. He discusses his research, and 90 works from the collection, at length in his book A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York, 1993.

Within this book Alexander outlines what, to him, are the most fundamentally important attributes in works. Some of his views are deeply profound and, probably unsurprisingly, his insights in terms of layering, design, colouring and geometry are amongst the most fascinating and poignant to be published in a collective body of work.

Alexander’s enthusiasm for archaic Anatolian village and rural weaves began in the 1970’s and over the course of two decades, through his own research and with the advice of capable dealers, he honed and developed his eye and ultimately created one of the most extraordinary and unique private collections worldwide.

He often references architecture in connection with what he terms ‘centres’ within carpets, the facets within the design which he feels imbue a completeness through layering, geometry and colour. They are to Alexander the core of compositional structures. Paramount is his ability to define these design elements which so elevate these carpets.

Ian Bennett, both admirer and critic of Alexander’s due to the latter’s sometimes more imaginative hypotheses, said of the collection ‘this is one of the most fascinating and beautiful groups of carpets ever assembled by an individual collector. For that gift, I would forgive Christopher Alexander almost anything.’ Bennett. I., ‘The Alexander Collection: Part II: A Carpet is a Picture of God’, Hali, April/May 1994, issue 74, p. 95.

The second part of the collection will be on view in London from 30 April and sale to be held Monday 23 April at 2.30pm.

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