Here, a vintage 3×6 Zeki Müren rug adorns an art gallery design by James Yarosh.
Today would be Müren’s 91st birthday — he was born Dec. 6, 1931 in Bursa, Turkey, and he passed Sept. 24, 1996 in his Bodrum home. He was an icon to countless, a bold atelier to many like us and an artist like no other to any that know his work as well as we do. Whether you know him as “Sun of Art” or “Model Citizen” or “the David Bowie of Turkey” or Pasha — an affectionate Turkish name for a leader — Müren was a prolific multidisciplinary artist like few of his period, or any for that matter.
Of his many accolades in classical music, TV, film and art, Müren was, furthermore, an openly gay man in an Islamic country who regularly challenged gender norms in his performance to such an extent that he remains a figure in Turkey’s LGBTQ+ movement today.
Of all his passions we admire, Müren also made some of the most fabulous, rare mid-century rugs even we have ever seen. This particular collaboration feels a fitting sample of Müren’s work, from our atelier perspective. His rugs enjoy vast array of influences, both popular and unusual for his era. It was his knack for expression and distinction, though, no matter the style, that makes them so collectible today.
Our own “Mid-Century Pasha” collection is a commemoration of Müren’s works — more particularly, R&K Principal Josh Nazmiyal’s curation of Müren’s most rare, unusual and exceptional works he finds. One advantage to building such a treasury is you get to see the diversity and one-of-a-kind nature in Müren’s works firsthand in a field where his salvageable works grow more uncommon every day. Many are small-size rugs and runners, with a few rare large-size rugs within. Even more have been sheered to evoke a distressed, shabby-chic feel — which in many cases only complements their rustic charm.
Today, we celebrate Müren’s birthday with a few of our favorite curations of his styles. Some recapture time-honored rug styles in an unprecedented fashion. Others are so ahead of their time that they compete with the most progressive modern rugs of our time. All deserve praise in their own rite, though, and we’re quite happy to oblige.
Even encompassing terms like “abstract” feel stifling in the quest to capture Müren’s bombastic, larger-than-life rug styles. Nonetheless, those who know Josh know when he does curate abstract, he settles for no less than one-of-a-kind.
These three ‘abstract’ rugs in Müren’s work stand alone, and even include two of our most rare signature selections in his work. They’re as collectible in this rite as they are iconic in their graphic nature, free-form pattern and riot of color. The leftmost selection, 24279, further enjoys a repute in Müren’s seldom seen larger rugs we covet like few others.
With context, a connoisseur will admire Müren’s ‘Art Deco’ as a keen mid-century interpretation of many Art Deco rug styles. The keen eye might see Müren draw on French Deco, Swedish Deco, Chinese Deco and countless other iterations of the style.
Here we share a curation that exhibit Müren’s range of Art Deco influences as much as his playful, unique take on such styles.
One who studies Müren’s lexicon will always marvel at how far back, wide-spanning and particular his influences were. How many other artists can boast such a skillful reimagining of the Art Nouveau style to such a contemporary look?
One can’t help but see that precipice to the Jazz age in this lineup, yet still admire a limitless modern appeal in their colors.
Whether he calls on the classic principles or recaptures them in his more rustic modern style, Müren’s cubist rug designs exemplify his ahead-of-his-time repute.
Few others, if any, could achieve the immersive depth and dimension like Müren in his halcyon days. This lineup further shows his skill to achieve this look in both a lively and livable ways. Here we see a deft hand for vibrant and neutral attitudes alike, and always a sense of movement.
One might argue that a true appreciation for Müren’s rugs is a subjective one — almost like an appreciation for art. He was an alumnus of the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts, after all, and it’s only one of many places that might’ve broadened his inspirations.
That power to evoke so many styles is one of the most important of Müren’s many gifts, and this array of selections embodies it. Here we almost see a nod to Japanese paintings, and celebrate Müren’s unusual, gorgeous minimalist approach to eastern art.
Here we reveal the Francophile in Müren that we see within our curations. Those who know Josh know he finds a kindred spirit here, and who wouldn’t gush over these mid-century interpretations of Aubussons, Savonneries and French Country rugs to name a few?
To study Müren’s works is, furthermore, to study mid-century modern rugs and their many ancestors. Müren drank from many wells, but we see a profound European postmodern influence in his most joyful, vibrant works.
The impact of contemporaries like Lucienne Day, Robert Stewart and the Eames seems especially present in Müren’s mid-century rugs. How could one admire this lineup and not further admire the feel of post-WW2 textiles and pop art?
Josh is keen to remind us that a mastery of classics is the key to making the best modern work. It’s no wonder then, in that spirit, why he curates Müren’s most particular works with classic, even archaic influences.
Müren especially had a talent for reimagining traditional and tribal Turkish and Persian designs in his colorful, refreshing fashion. Above, one might see an inventive 4×7 take on Turkish tribal motifs, a 4×7 nod to Persian panel-woven rugs and even a 3×6 ode to Anatolian rug designs.
If Müren’s vast and varied works host any common denominator, its his over-the-top approach to color. The lion’s share of Müren’s rugs are polychromatic — a term in our field for multicolor rugs. More particularly, polychromatic rugs are so wide-ranging they transcend the idea of reading a rug’s most-prevalent hues.
Furthermore, Josh praises Müren’s deft hand and devotion to the herculean effort by which he marries this element with meticulous patterns. I recall his praise in polychromatic rugs like these above, as he put it:
“Who else would take the time to achieve this detail, this movement? No one.”
To study more of Müren’s rugs up close than anywhere else in the world is a privilege, no doubt. Still, another beauty to the appreciation of art like that we mentioned? Some qualities of beauty transcend academia, and some of his most beautiful works don’t quite fit any of these styles.
That’s all-the-more reason to appreciate them, though, in our humble opinion — which we encourage our readers to do on this commemorative day.
We hope this glimpse into Müren’s life inspires you as it inspires us to curate his works in our Antique & Vintage Collection. Most of all, we hope you’ll join us in wishing the late legend doğum günün kutlu olsun with your favorites or your thoughts on Müren’s legacy below.