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4 East 30th Street
Anavian & Sons 1 Rugs and Carpets Murray Hill

The first time George Anavian traveled from Iran to the United States was to attend college in New York City in the 1960s. The second time was to flee a political revolution that had put his life in danger “many, many times.”

George began his career in Islamic art at the age of seven apprenticing in his father’s shop in Tehran, where he studied the overlapping roles that business, art, and history play in the industry. Tehran’s high demand for Islamic art meant competition amongst vendors, but the community’s soft spot for the precocious seven-year-old granted George a citywide classroom. Later, as a young man studying chemical engineering in college and graduate school, high international phone rates prevented him from speaking with his family for seven years. Instead, he sent countless letters.

After returning to Tehran to care for his ill father, the country fell to violence in 1978 amid the Iranian Revolution. As George recalls, the regime change created mobs that plundered shops and intimidated his neighbors. The Anavians lost their properties, three ware-houses, and the shop they had owned since 1922. As the situation worsened, George knew he needed to get his family out.

George and his family returned to New York, where his brother had opened a small rug and antiques shop on Madison Avenue. George eventually took over the store and relocated several times, amassing an international clientele. He has sold to “countless” museums around the world, written a book about oriental rugs, and taught appraisals at NYU for decades.

Each object George sells contains a riveting history. His rugs are, on average, 120 years old, most of which have Iranian origins. However, due to frequent embargoes, the last time George could import a rug from Iran was back in the 1980s. In addition, he has a collection of antiques from around the world, including tribes that have since disappeared. The oldest piece on his shelves dates back to 2600 B.C.

When asked if he ever thought about keeping any of these items, he said that it is a “sin” when dealers become collectors. It is the opportunity to see so many beautiful things rotate through his shop that is his favorite part of the job. Having studied carpets for decades, he is able to identify where and when one was created. An increasingly useful skill to have is the ability to spot fakes. How does he know when a rug is not authentic? “It doesn’t have the spirit in it.”

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