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Meet the Experts: Lawrence Kearney, Director of Fine Oriental Rugs & Carpets, Part I

Lawrence Kearny, Director of Fine Oriental Rugs & Carpets at Skinner, Inc.

Lawrence Kearney, Director of Fine Oriental Rugs & Carpets at Skinner, Inc.

Expert appraisers work together at Skinner auction house to find, appraise, and research rare, beautiful, and historically important items. In the Meet the Experts blog series, we meet some of these experts and learn the stories behind their success.

How did you first become interested in rugs?

I’ve always been interested in antiques, even when I was a kid. But rugs spoke to me directly, and I couldn’t shake them. In graduate school while getting an MFA in poetry, I started buying rugs in a serious way. Of course, if you buy enough of anything on a graduate student’s salary, you have to sell some of it. One morning, I realized I was a rug dealer! Despite some recent “softness” in the market for rugs, my passion hasn’t abated. I still love them. They’re great art for a relatively reasonable price.

What about rugs could hook someone who already loves fine art?

There are rugs for every kind of sensibility. If you’re drawn to tribal art, Gabbehs, Turkoman, or Uzbek embroideries will float your boat. If you enjoy more sophisticated objects, where the main artistic impulse comes from a designer, urban workshop rugs can scratch that itch. Village rugs fall in between those two extremes. These rugs are often a provincial weaver’s attempt to render sophisticated design in her own vocabulary. Although I’m interested in all three categories of rugs, I find village rugs the most satisfying. They seem to me the freest form of expression amongst all rugs.

You also have expertise in textiles. What types of textiles most appeal to you?

You see in textiles the same range of sensibilities found in rugs. I find myself drawn to textiles from cultures that held these works in high regard, from the distant past through contemporary times. Andean and Central Asian people considered textiles to be important objects, and the Amish of Lancaster County express their aesthetic in beautiful quilts.

One of the really great things about textiles is that they tended to be put away. Folded up inside a cedar chest and out of the light, a piece can survive for 200 or 300 years. That’s thrilling. Rugs, on the other hand, tend to get hammered, especially here in the West where they don’t have the same kind of significance as they did to the culture that made them.

What is the most interesting rug you’ve ever come across, and why did you love it?

Rugs are like my children, and I have so many children! How can I choose just one? One of my favorite objects is an American shirred rug, which is similar to a hooked rug, from about 1830. It has three sections depicting a large eagle, a vase of flowers, and the letters “US.”  This piece embodies everything I love about textile art. The colors are pure, it’s made from remnants of clothing, and it strikes me as quintessentially American folk art. The artistic sensibility of the person who made it was tremendously refined.

What do you have covering your floors and walls at home?

For the floors, I like Northwest Persian rugs. On my walls, I have Anatolian kilims, Central Asian textiles, and Navajo blankets.

The next Fine Oriental Rugs & Carpets auction will take place in Boston on March 22, 2014 at 12PM.

Read Part II of the interview with Lawrence Kearney

5 thoughts on “Meet the Experts: Lawrence Kearney, Director of Fine Oriental Rugs & Carpets, Part I

  1. Pingback: Meet the Experts | Lawrence Kearney | Oriental Rugs & Carpets Appraiser | Part II | Skinner Inc.

  2. It’s a pleasure to see Lawrence in this post in Skinner’s, and to read his heartfelt comments about his many decades in the field of rugs and textiles.


    Jim Opie

  3. Although a total novice about rugs, as a painter I responded right away to Lawrence’s pre-auction remarks . They were not only entertaining and educational, but also displayed a love and knowledge of his subject that any artist would covet .

    Thanks, Lawrence.


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