Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Carpet Designs of Serge Poliakoff

Composition Rouge by Serge Poliakoff, from the Art Surface Catalogue (1993). Carpet Index Library.

During his lifetime Serge Poliakoff had few of his designs reproduced as finished carpets. It was only in the 1990s with the French company Art Surface, that his designs became best sellers. Art Surface produced at least five different designs from Poliakoff's original design work from the 1960s. The company itself, produced both hand knotted and tufted carpets. The quality of the wool and the dyeing technique were of the highest quality which was reflected in their retail price, and for that reason the majority of their production had to be tufted, which corresponds generally with the quality found in the market today.

In the original Art Surface catalogue from 1993, the carpet designs had a reference size, but depending on the individual order, this could be changed. The company managed to obtain a wide range of design work and so the catalogue had contributions from about forty different contemporary artists. However, the company failed to gain a significant international recognition, and as a result a number of errors failed to be identified in the catalogue regarding some of the descriptions of its rugs. The company itself is no longer in existence.

For example, in the recent Christie's sale, 20th Century Decorative Art and Design in London, held on April 7 2009, Lot number 64 represents the smallest carpet that Serge Poliakoff produced for the Art Surface collection. It bears the name Composition Rouge or alternatively Composition Rouge 68, with '68' probably representing the year the original design was produced. The rug has been produced in a number of different sizes and was also available as a wall hanging in its smallest version. It is impossible to estimate how many examples were sold by Art Surface, as the company could produce up to a hundred pieces per design.

Identifying Poliakoff's rugs is relatively easy as Art Surface had the name of the artist sewn onto a cotton backing which was then glued on to the back of the rug.

The reference size for this design was 265cm x 195cm, the one on sale was slightly smaller (233cm x 173cm). The description in the sales catalogue mentioning Edition Ewald Kroner, a German company, as the manufacturer, and the 1960s as the decade of production, are inaccurate.

Nevertheless, these rugs remain good examples of 'floor art' and when they are kept out of direct sunlight, they manage to keep their vivid colour palette and so, therefore keep their original design ideal.

Post written by Jean Manuel de Noronha

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