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“Patterns of Life: The Art of Tibetan Carpets,” installation view at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, photo by David De Armas
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by N.F. Karlins

Tibetan rugs sit at the crossroads of folk art and fine art, featuring both freewheeling subjects from everyday life and a traditional attention to craft and materials. Some colors -- specifically red, yellow and orange -- are reserved for use in monasteries, and the finest weaves are frequently used for honored guests, often lamas. But rugs, mostly small, show up everywhere. They are used less as large-area floor coverings than for sitting and sleeping.