Unique. Bespoke. Exclusive. New Orleans Antiques
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ELITE TRAVELER, September 2010--
It’s perfectly reasonable to buy off the rack from time to time, but sometimes owning the best means a one-off purchase that’s all your own. Whether it’s a custom-created fragrance or a handbag that follows your every specification, we’ve assembled an assortment of our favorite purveyors of the extraordinary. Choose these resources for finds that won’t appear in anyone else’s collection.
M.S. Rau Antiques
Antiques galleries are notorious for being intimidating, impenetrable operations. Bill Rau, the third generation of his family to run M. S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans, defies the stereotype of the icy antiquary. His gallery’s uncommonly friendly reception, which extends beyond encouraging leisurely browsing to offering a drink or sorting out dinner reservations, is even more surprising upon realizing that M. S. Rau is the largest antiques sales gallery in North America and just under a century old. The feeling that he and his staff are “ambassadors for New Orleans” and the desire to “retain the feeling of a small family business” despite its major profile explains the ethos behind the overwhelming impression of Southern hospitality.
There’s an exceptional array of objects on display both at M. S. Rau’s main Royal Street gallery and in the new retail space Le Salon, which measures more than 4,500 square feet and is arranged in a residential-style layout. While much of the furniture, fine art and objects were produced in the 18th and 19th centuries, according to Rau, the principles that govern the gallery’s acquisitions above all are “rarity and beauty, which gives pleasure no matter the value.” Those imperatives mean that the gallery’s offerings are vastly more eclectic than your average antiques specialist. On your wanderings you’ll find newly acquired Monet canvas Inondation à Giverny is shown within a stone’s throw of one of the few WWII-era enigma machines outside a museum ($112,500) and a Victorian micromosaic necklace ($138,500). That diversity is the key to its base of regular clients in all 50 states and abroad, not to mention celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg and Nicolas Cage. “What you get from us you’re not going to find anywhere else,” says Rau.
If a client must track down an object not already in the gallery’s collection, the staff is happy to oblige. “We love to find things for people and have located thousands of pieces.” They’ve been tapped for tasks like unearthing a Van Gogh water scene for a museum’s painting collection or finding a rare Elkington design for the silversmith’s great-great-granddaughter. Collectors can start their search even before getting to the French Quarter with a look at the gallery’s extensive website, which features roughly 65 percent of current inventory.
Contact: Owner Bill Rau,