Azerbaijan Carpet Museum and Beyond – some reflections and discoveries of a three-day trip to Baku

by Asli Samadova

Earlier this month Jozan has published an article on a three-day lectures course “Western Approach to Azerbaijani Carpets“. For those interested in the topic, Asli Samadova, project coordinator, shared a link to lecture’s synopsis.

During their visit, Alberto Boralevi, the course lecturer, and Asli also had a chance to examine new Azerbaijan Carpet Museum permanent exhibition as well as get to see its storage.

Museum impresses with its exhibition scenography

Museum impresses with its exhibition scenography

Museum impresses with its exhibition scenography

Museum impresses with its exhibition scenography

First floor is dedicated to the processes of carpet making and major techniques are explained in short videos.

First floor is dedicated to the processes of carpet making and major techniques are explained in short videos.

Half of the area on the top floor is dedicated to Letif Kerimov and his work, much respected by Azerbaijan’s carpet community

Half of the area on the top floor is dedicated to Letif Kerimov and his work, much respected by Azerbaijan’s carpet community

Half of the area on the top floor is dedicated to Letif Kerimov and his work, much respected by Azerbaijan’s carpet community

Half of the area on the top floor is dedicated to Letif Kerimov and his work, much respected by Azerbaijan’s carpet community

While most of the collection is not dated earlier than 19th century, there are interesting pieces such as this namazlik prayer embroidery from Southern Azerbaijan (contemporary Northern Iran)

While most of the collection is not dated earlier than 19th century, there are interesting pieces such as this namazlik prayer embroidery from Southern Azerbaijan (contemporary Northern Iran)

Carpets in the museum storage are kept in metal containers, each of them can store up to 300 pieces. The museum collection has ca. 6000 textile pieces and carpets

Carpets in the museum storage are kept in metal containers, each of them can store up to 300 pieces. The museum collection has ca. 6000 textile pieces and carpets

“Lenin” 1957 carpet is so big that the museum staff still decides how and where to store it. Unfortunately, it is too big to be shown on display or even unrolled to be examined

“Lenin” 1957 carpet is so big that the museum staff still decides how and where to store it. Unfortunately, it is too big to be shown on display or even unrolled to be examined

“Lenin” carpet in all its beauty. Image source: Wikipedia

“Lenin” carpet in all its beauty. Image source: Wikipedia

In three days it was also possible to get acquainted with Baku’s other museum collections by discovering true gems such as never shown before 19th century Turkmen weavings and a collection of somewhat naive somewhat pompous Soviet-era political propaganda carpets in National Arts Museum as well as 14-16th centuries textiles in the National History Museum – a result of mid-20th century archeological excavations in Baku’s citadel, UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site – Icheri Sheher (Old City).

Due to some historical circumstances Azerbaijan no more has a rich ancient rug collection, however, contemporary local production is reviving especially in the past few years since 2010 – a year when Azerbaijan carpet was included into UNESCO Intangible Heritage List. There are small home-based productions in Icheri Sheher and other sites of Baku as well as distant regional villages. Azerbaijan also has few commercial production sites that work on restoring natural dyeing traditions and the full in-house production cycle. The biggest and most known abroad, Azerilme has a very strong commercial base and few hundred weavers, half of which are based in Baku’s production site.

In Azerilme Baku’s production site

In Azerilme Baku’s production site

Azerbaijan also experiences a creativity wave of contemporary artists and designers inspired and actively referred to textile ornamentations in their works.

Elshan Ibrahimov’s Azerbaijani Carpet - Snake Karachof Kazak game. Courtesy of Yay! gallery and the artist.

Elshan Ibrahimov’s Azerbaijani Carpet – Snake Karachof Kazak game. Courtesy of Yay! gallery and the artist.

Rahim Chopurov - participant of “Invasion. Museum 2014” curatorial project by Sabina Shikhlinskaya – and his Azerbaijani Carpet ceramic sculptures that depict “the beauty of Azerbaijani women, their love towards carpet art, at the same time their hard work and efforts.”

Rahim Chopurov – participant of “Invasion. Museum 2014” curatorial project by Sabina Shikhlinskaya – and his Azerbaijani Carpet ceramic sculptures that depict “the beauty of Azerbaijani women, their love towards carpet art, at the same time their hard work and efforts.”

Unique jewelry inspired by textile ornaments – Resm is also first national brand by Rasmina Gurbatova

Unique jewelry inspired by textile ornaments – Resm is also first national brand by Rasmina Gurbatova

Artist Farid Rasulov’s work for Venice 2013 Azerbaijan pavilion

Artist Farid Rasulov’s work for Venice 2013 Azerbaijan pavilion

Further information: Asli Samadova