The fact of a Faig Ahmed should give us pause.
Not that an artist from Azerbaijan is vaulting to international prominence.
Not that the language of craft is usurping the position of art.
But that an artist who clearly sees his path as a maker, neither knows, nor needs to care, whether his work fits into canons of art history established in Munich, Hamburg, Vienna, London, or New York over the past two centuries.
Faig Ahmed is cheerfully oblivious to the 1985 exhibition of so-called "Oriental" carpets, at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam, by Belgian artist, Guillaume Bijl.
Bijl, coming out of Surrealism, and the institutional irony of a Marcel Broodthaers, chose the museum as locus and turned it into the commercial bazaar we all know the display of art to be. His iconic installation consisted in using the rooms of the museum as a readymade, and filling them, with perfect attention to miniscule detail, with the very best carpets to be found in Holland. All exhibited as if they were actually for sale. A brilliant and unsurpassable critique, harking not only back to Broodthaers, but Man Ray, Magritte, and Duchamp before him, and, why not?, Gustave Courbet's 1855 Paris exhibition, right behind.
Faig Ahmed sidesteps all this art history. Cheerfully, he uses the language of so-called "Western" installation – gallery walls, room-filling string-sculptures, track lighting to illuminate the torque of monumental shapes – all the while aggrandizing something far, far, away removed from our preoccupation with evolution of art historical form, with perspective, Euclidean geometry, a reference to faces, or the image itself. His is a language of abstraction that no longer seeks its home in icons, such as those of Kasimir Malevich or Vladimir Tatlin, but in the millennial traditions of pattern and form used in textiles. And though, ultimately, these patterns may refer to the Garden of Paradise, or animals, people, and divinities — these elocutions are created not with magisterial deftness of line and concept, but with millions of threads, patient rote labor, rooted utterly in traditions of the hand, in tribal traditions, in religious usages, in an object that was once (and in many places still is) floor covering, room divider, bedcover, saddle, or altarpiece.