A new gallery in Dubai brings together contemporary and antique carpets from all over the world, says SHALAKA PARADKAR
The Middle East is the world’s fourth largest carpet manufacturing region, with a wide variety available to suit every budget and lifestyle – from machine-washable carpets for budget décor to heirloom silk carpets which ought to be displayed on walls instead of trodden on floors. They can be bought at the nearest hypermarket or exclusive ateliers such as the newly opened Orientalist Woven Art.
Located at Al Wasl Road, Orientalist’s new gallery complements an existing outlet located on Jumeirah Beach Road. They also operate one of the world’s largest carpet galleries in Singapore. While technology has made carpets affordable, stain-resistant, easier to maintain and longer lasting with denser piles, managing director Abi Bagheri says the finest carpets are still hand knotted.
So closely do synthetic carpets resemble hand knotted ones in texture, relief patterns, and drop stitch finishes, that the very livelihood of the handmade carpet industry has been threatened, driving up prices as production has been cut back.
Demand has not been affected though, says Bagheri. Designers have always tried to create interesting floors and a sense of luxury underfoot by unfurling carpets, rugs and dhurries. In the Middle East, they have been supplying the finest hand knotted carpets and rugs to celebrity homes, leading institutions and premier heads of state.
“We also offer unique personalised designs, giving clients, interior designers and developers the opportunity to create their own unique pieces for their projects. With over 1,800 colours to choose from, we work closely with our clients to ensure that the bespoke carpets reflect the desired style and ambience of the scheme,” he says. The contemporary designs can be dyed to match any décor and they also offer designers the option to design their own pieces.
In Dubai, they have installed carpets in The Palace hotel, Old Town, the Burjuman centre lobby, private houses, serviced apartments and royal residences. “We are also bringing furniture, from contemporary to classic, as well as an art collection to complement the carpets. For instance we will be showcasing furniture by Christopher Guy which goes well with the Savonnerie rugs we have in store.” The art ranges from vintage prints to botanicals and contemporary works.
In the Orientalist’s Designers’ Choice collection, superior grade Kork wool is typically combined with silk. The finest and most detailed pieces are in pure silk. The gallery showcases some fine examples of classic carpets created by renowned workshops in the carpet producing centres of Kashan, Tabriz, Isfahan, Naien as well as silks from Qoum, Kashmir and Hereke. The company specialises in oversized carpets, in demand for palaces and royal residences – where the size of the carpet is upwards of 25 sq m. The fact that these take many months to produce is no deterrent for clients.
Antique carpets are also valuable collector’s items that fetch prices more associated with Old Masters at auctions. For instance, the piece de resistance of the gallery’s collection is a hand-knotted Persian carpet rendered in 1100 colours, and depicting several centuries of Iranian history. The carpet, which took some 29 years to weave, has portraits of Iranian kings, mosques and poets in a flattened perspective style narrative. Pieces such as this carpet have an investment value and the gallery offers advice, restoration and appraisal services.
The Orientalist also has contemporary works by designers such as Haynes Robinson who works with nomadic Persian tribes and shepherds, getting them to interpret her contemporary designs through their techniques. Jan Kath’s collection links traditional Himalayan handicrafts with modern, almost minimalist design. Other designers showcased at The Orientalist include the Mischioff brothers, Afghan inspired Chuk Palu and Ketna Patel.
The company also provides allied services such as professional carpet cleaning – providing specialist washing and cleaning for every type of handmade carpet, repairs and restoration – commissioning a master weaver for expert restoration.
As part of the investment advice they provide to buyers, Orientalist also undertakes customer education workshops. As Bagheri says, “In Dubai, we have signed up with various womens groups to educate them about the history, value and care of carpets so they can better appreciate this craft.”