About ICOC

A History of The ICOC

In 1976 the first international conference on Oriental carpets (during London's Festival of Islam) was expected to attract around a hundred participants. Robert Pinner, the late founder of ICOC wrote: " ...it was decided to form a small committee, book a university lecture room to hold that number, send out invitations to some twenty or so lecturers and advertise the dates to potential participants. Six months later, having twice changed the venue, the conference opened with five hundred people overfilling the Jeannette Cochran Theatre, and emergency half-day bus tours arranged in the hope of tempting enough people away from the theatre to avoid breaking its fire regulations."

Subsequent conferences have been held in: Munich (1978), Washington DC (1980), London (1983), Vienna & Budapest (1986), San Francisco (1990), Hamburg & Berlin (1993), Philadelphia (1996), Milan (1999) and Washington DC again (2003). ICOC has also sponsored regional conferences in Baku, Istanbul, Leningrad, Marrakech and Tehran, each accompanied by memorable exhibitions.

The Eleventh International Conference was held in Istanbul April 19 - 22, 2007, about which more information can be obtained here >>>.

Each International Conference since 1986 has featured between six and eight exhibitions, many of which have become landmarks in the field of carpet and textile art. Probably the most notable are "The Eastern Carpet in the Western World" & "Carpet Magic" (London 1983), "Orient Stars" (Hamburg 1993), and "Studies in Colour and Geometry: Turkish Pile Carpets from the Christopher Alexander Collection" & "Anatolian Kilims: The McCoy Jones Collection" (San Francisco, 1990). As well as exhibitions from museum collections worldwide, ICOC exhibitions have always featured the collections of "local" collectors, such as "Oriental Rugs from Atlantic Collections" (Philadelphia, 1996) and exhibitions focused on specific groups or topics such as yastiks (Phildelphia, 1996) and khorjin and mafrash (Washington, 2003) and Turkish pile rugs and kilims (Istanbul, 2007). Registrants agreed that the exhibitions at the TIEM and the Vakiflar in Istanbul were among the best ever mounted.

Since 1986, the conferences have hosted an ever more successful and popular Carpet Fair, wherein dealers from around the globe offer world class rugs and textiles. Recent conferences have also included both pre- and post- conference tours which enhance the overall ICOC experience.

An international conference exists on many levels. As a forum for academic papers, it also serves as a godfather to research. Publication plays an essential role in this task not only for the text of papers but also of ICOC exhibitions for which illustrated catalogues provide a permanent record of otherwise ephemeral spectacles. The papers presented at the conference were, until 1983, published in HALI (The International Magazine of Antique Carpet & Textile Art), but since then have been published in Oriental Carpet & Textile Studies (OCTS), with ICOC taking over the publication of the papers in 1993. Exhibition catalogues have been published by museums and by ICOC, and often become important additions to the literature in their own right.

Equally important, however, is the conference's role as a meeting place. Each ICOC is an academic and social event. It is an occasion for renewing old friendships and rivalries and for creating new ones, for putting faces to familiar names, for discussing the latest fashions in rugs and theories, for being instructed, entertained, and stimulated, by the latest gossip about rugs and rug people. It is a world of its own but a very accessible one. It is one of the main strengths of the international conference that the majority of its presentations are easily understood by the newcomer to oriental carpets who simply wishes to learn a little more about this art, and quite often finds himself caught up in it for life.

Statement of Aims & Objectives

The INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ORIENTAL CARPETS is dedicated to advancing the understanding of carpet and related textile arts, primarily of the eastern hemisphere. To this end, the aims and objectives of ICOC are to:

  • Arrange for periodic international forums to present papers and organize exhibitions which are intended to encourage the interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and ideas about Oriental carpets by scholars, collectors, dealers, and others of different interests, backgrounds and countries. Such forums would promote and stimulate rug studies.

  • Arrange for the publication of conference papers presented and of exhibition catalogs, books and other materials.

  • Encourage and maintain high standards for the presentations and for the exhibitions.

  • Provide the organizational structure to fulfill the above aims and objectives.

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