Collecting works of art, for whatever reason, has a very long history and is probably as old as handmade carpets themselves. Such early collections may have consisted oh unusual, decorative and precious objects intended to show the owner's status in society the buyers or acquirers of such objects had no particular aim other than this. Even the kings and princes of the European Renaissance who acquired large numbers of oriental carpets at a time when purchasing and commissioning, works of art had become fashionable, were not attempting to create what would now be called a 'structured collection. But it is certainly evidence that the Oriental carpet was a greatly desired and highly valued commodity at that time.
By the Age of Enlightenment, people had already begun to discuss the meaning and purpose of collecting; it was considered a suitable subject for intellectual argument of a high order, as ~vas shown by Goethe and others. As a result, a very idealistic concept of collecting developed, in which ownership and the competition of the marketplace were considered of minor significance; the acquisition of knowledge and the preservation of art for future generations became central issues. Within such an intellectual framework, it was possible for a collector to range widely over the whole field oh art.
Many of the greatest collections of tribal weavings now mostly in museums, were brined at a time when such activities were considered exotic or merely eccentric. Even by the 1930s, the number (if collectors was small, so that those active at that time, such as the American, Joseph McMullan, could afford to take their pick. using. as their principal criteria, beauty and age.
We do not have the same license today and anyone who does not enjoy almost limitless financial resources must think carefully about what the collection is trying to achieve; it will only approach completeness when the chosen area or areas oil specialization have been fully covered. With this it mind be in mind it would be impossible today to make Turkmen weaving in its entirety a viable possibility.
It can, of course, be immensely pleasurable to acquire individual Turkmen weavings simply for their beauty and quality. Sue Ii a type (if collecting has its own merits but has a different purpose and value to intense specialist collecting.
It is important for the first-time buyer to seek advice from experts and experienced collectors, although he or she should not he too discouraged by tile inevitable, and sometimes costly, mistakes which all collectors make at tile beginning of their careers. After buying power knowledge is the collectors greatest asset and there is an enormous number of publications on Turkmen weavings available today which should give anyone at least a theoretical knowledge of the subject. However, there is no substitute for hands-on experience and until that is gained, it is advisable to consult knowledgeable friends, dealers and auction-house experts.
Making contact with like-minded collectors is made easier by the large number of carpet societies which have sprung up in many major cities throughout the world in recent years; these arc usually open to anyone with sufficient enthusiasm. Regular meetings and, ill some cases, excellent programmers of lectures and discussions about interesting and unusual rugs, plus the added bonuses of being able to meet and talk to well-known scholars in various fields and to visit great museum collections with expert guides together constitute an entertaining way of getting to know one's subject.
Many collections all over tile world, both private and public, offer programmers of study aided by catalogues and other published material. The literature of Turkmen weaving is both given in the bibliography to this book as well as being cited in the captions to the plates. One should also keep an eye on such specialist publications as the carpet and textile magazine Hali, which appears six times a year in London and is available on subscription only, as well as on general arts and antiques magazines which frequently carry articles on weaving.
Various auction houses publish regular catalogues either devoted entirely to carpets and textiles or containing a significant number of them within the framework of more general groupings of works of art. Again, it is advisable to discuss potential purchases with experienced collectors or with the relevant expert at the auction house itself, although in the latter case one should satisfy oneself as to which firms are reliable and have good reputations in the carpet and textile fields, In some instances, the quality of cataloguing is extremely high, making the catalogues themselves important works of reference; in some cases, the publication of pre-sale estimates followed by lists of actual prices received can both show one the reliability of the auction house and give one a good idea about values and trends.