Dr. Ayan and Brigitte Gülgönen have limited their collection of kilims to Anatolia. They began collecting them in the late 60s and have today one of the perhaps two most important collections in Turkey. Their work from the very beginning belongs to a set of aspirations that have led public and state institutions to recognise that kilims are part of an exceptional cultural heritage and identity of the nations that live within the Republic of Turkey. The safeguarding of this heritage has become very rigorous today. The exhibition at the National Gallery of Slovenia is a true precedent since the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey has for the first time ever granted the temporary export of kilims from a private collection.
The kilim (also ćilim, kelim) began to draw attention as a collector’s item only a good thirty years ago. Since then their demand has increased and a special area of expertise has formed, aiming to place the material known up till this point into a framework according to its time and place of origin. The theory links the textile samples with the oldest ornamental arts which stem back all the way to Neolithic times when the first looms appeared. However, the objects that have been preserved up till today are rarely older than three centuries – older textiles are immensely rare.
Kilims are thin rugs that used to be woven by nomads and settlers for their everyday home use, while hand knotted rugs used to be made in the urban environment where, particularly in later centuries, manufacture was organised for export. On the whole, court workshops followed models, usually very expensive cards, which meant that any number of rugs could be made according to the same pattern. Weaving kilims was far more dependant on improvisation within the structure of traditional patterns, hence each traditional kilim is a unique piece of work. Their patterns and other particularities can be determined by place of origin since in nomadic and rural communities they used to be passed on, like in other cultural traditions, from generation to generation. The home of the kilim is probably Anatolia, even though they are also widespread in Iran, in the Caucasus area and in Central Asia, as well as in North Africa and Europe. Among the last, known also in Slovenia, are the Pirot kilims which are very valued even today. They used to be woven in the Sandžak region, Macedonia and Bosnia. The weaving of kilims has remained an entirely woman’s area of work. Women preserved the tradition, terminology and knowledge – differentiating between products of different origin.
Organic dyes, most often of plant origin, were used for colouring the wool. The women used to colour individual strands of wool as they went on, which explains the frequent appearance of different shades of colour in the patterns. This particularity is known as abrash. Sometimes they also put colours together by adding a combination of two different coloured threads. In 1862 the first ship landed in Istanbul with a cargo of aniline dyes and these gradually superseded natural dyes, whereas production was also directed towards meeting the needs of the market. Later produced rugs are therefore less valued among collectors.
The exhibition is made up of twenty-five selected kilims that can be dated from the late 17th century up till the middle of the 19th century. The time of origin can be determined to the half or a third of a century; and more precisely only in exceptional cases. Among them there are also those that can compete with the most important examples in museum collections. Dr. Ayan and Brigitte Gülgönen only preserve and protect their kilims in their existing condition since the wear and tear is a sign of use – also an important value that should be emphasised by each object in its own way.
Author of the exhibition
Curator of the exhibition
Realisation of the exhibition
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey
Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey
Sponsor of the exhibition
Krka, tovarna zdravil, d.d., Novo mesto
12 June–15 July 2007
Narodni dom Gallery