More than Your Grandmother's Attic

April 2012
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THE EPOCH TIMES...

 

NEW YORK-Bill Rau can gloat as much as he wants this year. He's the third- generation owner of his family's lucrative and world renowned antiques, fine art, and estate-jewelry emporium: M.S. Rau Antiques. Located in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, the store is celebrating its 100th year and is in very fine shape.

Bill Rau has decades of experience taking care of an impressive inventory, looking after discerning and finicky clients, and roaming the globe to acquire museum-worthy pieces of art. Three generations of the Rau family have helped support one of the country's most vibrant cities and have helped keep M.S. Rau on the map as a must-see destination in the Crescent City.

"Collecting has been in the DNA of my family for years," explained Bill Rau. "Being able to source, sell, and appreciate the heritage side of the business continues to be my passion, and I expect that M.S. Rau will be around for another 100 years in the same location."

Bill Rau's daughter Rebecca, a recent college graduate, has joined the company and is in charge of the new Rau for Art Foundation, becoming the fourth generation to work at the gallery full time.

As the country's largest and one of the oldest dealers, M.S. Rau has weathered the economic ups and downs of the past century, not to mention Hurricane Katrina.

 

Humble Beginnings

Since 1912, when Max S. Rau set up his gallery on Royal Street to sell wrought and cast iron, art and cut glass, and Victorian furniture, the business has seen some of the world's finest antiques, fine arts, and jewelry pass through its doors, even through the Great Depression.

From its humble beginnings, M.S. Rau went on to develop its specialization in 18th and 19th century antiques. Its vast inventory is spread over a sprawling, two-story gallery. The second floor of the gallery opened in the late 1940s. The company has since acquired more adjacent property.

Since Bill Rau became president of M.S. Rau Antiques in 1995, the business has transformed dramatically with the times, developing a stronger global presence in the market. He maintains a steady antiques-show schedule around the country, exhibiting in New York, Naples, Palm Beach, Dallas, Chicago, Aspen, and Los Angeles.

A Must-See in New Orleans
Whether shopping for the loyal following of collectors or new and aspiring collectors, as well as museums, Bill Rau enthusiastically scours the globe for acquisitions and treasures.

When looking to acquire works of art and antiques, Bill looks for provenance. Art and antiques come to Rau via collectors, museums, or people who inherit estates. Bill Rau is often asked about how to start collecting.

"You don't always have to follow trends or the dollar sign," he said. "If a particular era, style, or artist inspires you, then use that as your guideline for collecting."

Rau has also expanded its collection of fine art from the 18th through 20th centuries.

Works by famous artists- including impressionist artists, leaders of the 19th century academics like William Adolphe Bouguereau, and illustrious American painters like Norman Rockwell- spend very little time at M.S. Rau before being snapped up by collectors, celebrities, and museums around the world. Sylvester Stallone, Nicholas Cage, and Whoopee Goldberg are some of Rau's celebrity clients.

Local hotel concierges highly recommend that visitors to New Orleans include the fine art gallery among their stops.

Today, visitors to the gallery can get an in-depth art history lesson from the knowledgeable sales staff eager to educate and swap information with collectors and browsers. Provenance at M.S. Rau is a signature of the business.

Furniture from Versailles and Britain's royal houses is mixed in with imposing antiques that filled the homes of America's 19th century industrialists.

A great example of the more unique pieces is a beautiful and rare Indian sterling silver tea server (circa 1880), which pours tea and milk from the camel's mouth. One barrel is filled with warm tea and the other with warm milk. The base of the 19 1/2-inch-high server includes a compartment for storing teas, and a silver sugar bowl lies beneath the camel figure.

Walking through the galleries, one will come across a small salon devoted to mechanical musical boxes with miniature singing birds. Decorative and unusual canes also occupy a significant part of the selling floor.

Under Bill Rau's leadership, M.S. Rau Antiques now employs an in-house team of photographers and researchers who diligently record and detail every piece for the website, which is a veritable lesson in art history. Early this fall, the company will publish its first hardcover book covering 18th century painting.

M.S. Rau is unlike any other antiques and fine arts gallery in the United States, and a tour of the galleries allows experienced collectors and antiques neophytes the opportunity to converse with experts.

On first glance, M.S. Rau seems above most people's price range, but according to Bill Rau, "We have items to fit every budget, starting at $100 and reaching upwards of $4 million."

Isabelle Kellogg is a writer and public relations consultant in the luxury sector, with a passion for diamonds, jewelry, watches, and other luxury products, including travel. Contact her at isabelle@ikellogg.com.

Epoch Times

Epoch Times