Afsaneh Mirfendereski, a Chevy Chase artist and architect of Persian heritage, responds to Magic Carpet Ride: Corcoran Gallery’s “Sickle-Leaf” Persian Triples Previous Auction Record for Carpets and Rescue Miscue: Outlandish Proposal to Save the Corcoran by Dumping Its Art:
Senator [William] Clark [who in 1925 bequeathed to the Corcoran Gallery the Sickle-Leaf Carpet that the museum just sold for $33.77 million] must be rolling in his grave.
I learned a huge lesson: Never donate art to private museums. Or else do so with conditions attached that the pieces are not to be sold at private auction for fundraising purposes. Art is part of our common human heritage. This disrespect for the private donations of Sen. Clark, in so crass a manner, has left me speechless.
The Safavid era (16th-17th century) is the last cultural peak of Iran and its glorious Persian art, architecture and urban design. To auction off a Safavid rug, in an era where the U.S. is fully severed from Iran, adds an additional element of heartache. The U.S. public’s access to Persian culture is now further severed, in an age where the U.S. already has way too little access to the profound arts and architecture of Iran.
I’m an abstract watercolor artist—contemporary as you can get. And yet, my sensitivity to color, proportion and composition came from exposure to the magic of Persian rugs as a child. We grew up on them and saw them everywhere. How utterly uncouth of the Corcoran to assume that a “contemporary” artist couldn’t benefit from Safavid Persian rugs.
I called the Corcoran and complained. I wrote to every single wealthy friend I have and told them to never donate art to a private museum, unless they protect it with conditions that it never be auctioned off.
If the Corcoran wants to sell us the narrative of not having room, or of changing its artistic mission away from Persian rugs, why not sell to a public museum, so that the public could continue to benefit, as opposed to shamelessly auctioning off an artifact to the highest private bidder and locking away this piece of artistry from the rest of us?