Polly Hill Arboretum sponsors antique rug talk and trunk show

Strong colors are currently in vogue among collectors of oriental rugs, according to Mr. Pap. — Photo courtesy of Karin Stanley

Many people think of rugs merely as floor coverings, but for oriental rug dealer Peter Pap they qualify as works of art. He will bring 100 oriental rugs with him for “Antique Rugs: A Walk through the Garden,” his talk and trunk show at the Polly Hill Arboretum on Tuesday, August 14.

Considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on antique oriental rugs, Mr. Pap has been collecting and selling them for 37 years. “I’m very excited about coming,” he said in a recent telephone interview. Dividing his time between San Francisco and Dublin, N.H., he made his last visit to the Vineyard 20 years ago, showing his rugs at Eve Stone Antiques.

Mr. Pap’s talk will focus on the plant, flower, and tree designs found on antique rugs, along with the vegetable dyes used to create brilliant colors. His collection concentrates on rugs from Iran, Turkey and the Caucasus Mountain region where Europe and Asia meet, in particular Armenia, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan. “Historically they made the important rugs,” he says.

In countries like Turkey, rugs became an export product as early as the 15th century. The heyday of rug exporting came in the 19th century. As a result, the best hunting grounds for high-quality antique orientals is in the West. Modern oriental rugs are not as desirable, according to Mr. Pap, because once rug designs became standardized in the early 20th century, individual rug weavers had less influence.

“I am always looking for the artistic expressions of the women who made them,” Mr. Pap says. His search for high-quality antique rugs has gravitated toward village environments, because that’s where unique examples of the designs and colors show up that turn an oriental rug into a work of art.

“Rugs have every bit as much impact as paintings, and they are considerably less expensive,” Mr. Pap says. He encourages buyers to be eclectic and mix different styles of rugs. “The designs work beautifully together,” he says. From an investment standpoint, older oriental rugs that adhere to original patterns retain their value better than those of standardized designs that were made specifically for export to the West.

Mr. Pap’s talk will address the issue of what rules of thumb an antique rug buyer should follow. He puts the policies and guarantees of the dealer first. “It’s an area where you’re never going to be educated adequately,” he says of antique orientals.

The dealer therefore plays a critical role in helping a buyer choose. A rug dealer should guarantee that the rug being sold is what is represented. Any repairs, for instance, should be disclosed. In Mr. Pap’s case, buyers can always trade back a well-maintained rug if the buyer changes homes or has a rug that for some other reason is no longer appropriate.

As well as using a respected dealer, a rug buyer needs to consider the condition of the rug being sold. Some factors include the amount of wear to the pile, repairs made, changes to the original pattern, and missing sections of the border.

Mr. Pap’s talk will cover the kinds of plants used to create rug dyes and a brief history of oriental rugs, as well as the most common designs. He also plans to explain rug categories. “So many people get intimidated by rug names,” he says. He believes it makes more sense for a buyer to learn whether a rug comes from a nomadic or urban workshop and to ascribe their taste in rugs to a certain category. Then they can narrow down their choices.

Mr. Pap, who has been an appraiser on the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow,” predicts that colorful rugs will soon make a strong comeback. “Pale, neutral colors have been in fashion for 10 to 15 years,” he says. “We’re entering a new cycle, when buying beautifully colored rugs is the way to go. It’s an opportunity to buy rugs with more pizzazz.”

A reception and preview of the sale will follow Mr. Pap’s talk. Ten percent of the proceeds from rug sales will go to Polly Hill. Prospective buyers can take rugs home on approval, and Mr. Pap will be available for consultation.

“Antique Rugs: A Walk through the Garden,” Tuesday, August 14, 5-6 pm; reception and sale preview, 6-8 pm; sale, August 15 and 16, 9:30 am-7:30 pm, Far Barn at Polly Hill Arboretum, West Tisbury. For information, call 508-693-9426 or see www.peterpap.com.