NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-- Art is big business in New Orleans. You see it in the architecture, taste it in the food and hear it in the brass bands on the street. There are many art galleries throughout the French Quarter but on Royal Street lies a 25 thousand square foot gallery of luxury. There is only one M.S. Rau Antiques!
It is one of the most notable art and artifacts galleries in the world.
Outside, it looks to be as big as any other shop. However once you step inside, a high class world of flash, fare and elegance opens up.
There is a lot to look at, from a "bad to the bone" Siberian cave bear skeleton, dating from 150 thousand B.C.
If you take a peek inside a glass case, you might see a World War Two enigma machine from Germany. These are the machines with codes, English mathematician Allen Turing, cracked, to help the allied forces win the war.
Perhaps, the most precious, trinket is a 35 karat-internally flawless-yellow diamond ring.
Apart from the treasures of the main rooms in the gallery, awaits a secret passage behind an unassuming door.
This door is the gateway to the extraordinary!
"This is what we're known for is our secret room. It's getting less secret every day. It's a fun attraction. Locals know about it, and sometimes when people visit from out of town, they are seeking it," says sales consultant George Peralta.
One fine day, I took a stroll with George behind the door and just like in the Lion the Witch and Wardrobe, I found myself transported into fantasy. Along the way I saw many a gem from history along with many extravagant price tags!
I saw a charcoal by Norman Rockwell, entitled Ben Franklin's Belle's, where Ben is quite the ladies man with with french mademoiselles all around. There was a painting that brings your thoughts to what it's like working with antiques. Delivering Two Busts is was a painting by Rockwell, depicting an antique dealer. My eyes enlarged and I swallowed a dry uncomfortable imaginary gulp of water, to find it priced at a cool five million dollars.
There's a work from impressionist Claud Monet. However, if you've the got the money for Monet, it can be yours.
For about an hour, I was no longer a working class journalist, but I was a prospective buyer from the high end of society... at least in my day dreaming.
"When you see it, you kind of fall in love. It just stops you in your tracks. People with works in their lifetime that were believed to be inexpensive are now selling at millions of dollars at auction... That's value," says Peralta.
As an antiques dealer, George Peralta sees many a pretty picture. I was happy to see that he was also dreaming as well!
In another life, George would have been a rich baron with a beautiful painting adorning his living room. There is only one painting in the whole gallery that inspires George to dream; his favorite one.
"There's an artist Montague Dawson. He is known for sea scapes. The water looks so real and so vibrant. This is one of the paintings I would put in my home."
If you would like to check out the many treasures of the gallery, tour the secret room, or perhaps make a purchase, the gallery occasionally gives tours.
Check them out here.