Rug depicting 9/11 attack popular on auction block
The most popular item on the auction block Wednesday was a rug depicting the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, says an official with Ritchies Auctioneers.
The online auction closed at 2 p.m. and the rug, titled "Twin Towers Attack" fetched $450. The item drew the most response, said Duncan Blair, Ritchies' rug and carpet specialist.
The item also sparked a couple of angry emails from viewers, Blair said. However, he also said he heard from people who understood that Afghani weavers traditionally use images of war in their tapestries.
Blair said there is an entire genre of rugs that were made with images of 9/11.
"To take (the rug) out of its context is much more shocking," he said. "When you see it beside other rugs that have mission artillery helicopters, you see that they're just showing us war the way they see it."
He pointed to other rugs that are also up for auction in the exhibit: "Afghan War Rugs and Ephemera" as an example.
Several rugs have scenes of military tanks in Herat, an Afghani village attacked by the Soviets in 1979. Many of these have a picture of the Great Friday Mosque in Herat woven into it -- a symbol of the strength of Islam in Afghanistan.
On the Richies' website, there is a brief introduction to the exhibit that explains the tradition of war images in Afghani tapestries.
"Afghan weavers have always depicted on their rugs what they see around them and what matters most to them," it says. "Thus on some Afghan rugs over the past three decades of military chaos, customary images of flowers have turned into bullets, or landmines, or hand grenades. Birds have turned into helicopters and fighter jets. Landscapes have filled up with field guns and troop carriers. Sheep and horses have turned into tanks. The group of war rugs offered here recounts this history."
Blair said the site of the twin towers being hit has become an "iconic image."
The World Trade Centre site is woven into the rugs with two planes crashing into sides of the twin towers. In the picture, the buildings have started to explode. The date of the attack is woven at the top of the tapestry. At the bottom, the artist wove "Made in Afghanistan."
Blair said he doubts the "Made in Afghanistan" signage was added on as an ironic statement or a political message about the war. Afghanistan is seen as the original base for Al Qaeda, the international Sunni Islamist movement behind the attacks.
"Most of (the artisans) are illiterate," he said. "I can't imagine that's the intention, seeing where it came from. There are other rugs that say 'Made in Afghanistan' as well."