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February 5, 2014

Stand-Out Philadelphia Collector: Franz Rabauer

About the Author
Erica Minutella

See the exhibition here

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Benefit v.14 brings together the best in creative Philadelphia, from emerging fashion designers to kickass catering crews, from pumped-up performances by Liberty City Kings Drag and Burlesque to hundreds of works by area artists.
By day, Franz Rabauer is a center city real estate agent. But his true mission in life – one that he shares with his partner of 16 years Brian Daggett – is to foster the careers of burgeoning artists. As he describes, art collecting can be a little like falling in love – when fragile beauty meets insatiable desire.
Can you tell me about your background?
I’m a real estate agent here in Center City. I’ve been doing that for 16 years, and I sit on a number of nonprofit boards and chair a number of committees for events for fundraising.
Can you tell me more about your work with the community?
I was on the board of the Clay Studio, very involved in the outreach there with the Clay Mobile. And Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, my partner and I chaired Bachanaal two years in a row, last year and the year before, and we raised almost a million dollars for the student scholarship fund. For the last five years I’ve chaired the glass auction at the National Liberty Museum to fund all of their programs.
How did you first get started as an art collector?
I’ve always had an appreciation for it. I studied it in college. I started collecting in flea markets in New York, and then in expanded to glass. And then I met my partner and we expanded our flat wall collection – paintings. About six years ago we got into contemporary glass, and it sort of exploded.
It was our involvement with PAFA, the National Liberty Museum, and the Clay Studio, that actually enhanced our eye and caused us to start collecting.
What is it about contemporary glass that fascinates you?
I find it incredible that an artist could blow glass and create something more. They can do cast glass, and it’s so much heavier, but it’s just as beautiful, but not as fragile as blown glass. I like the abstract more than the figurative. It’s amazing that they can take molten liquid and create something so beautiful.
If you could tell a story about one piece in your collection that really stands out, what would it be?
There’s so many pieces that I’m madly in love with.
Christopher Reese, he’s a glass artist. He works with pure crystal, pure optical glass, and he carves, grinds, and polishes. And the reason I’m picking his piece is I just said yes to it going into an exhibit. It’s called “Desert Flower.” And he rarely uses color in a lot of his pieces, but this one he’s adding color into the bottom of it. And it was part of a show that my partner and I orchestrated, where we brought in over three million dollars worth of glass, and created this beautiful, beautiful exhibit.
I don’t know who was happier, him or us. He knew that it was going to be in our home and that we appreciated his work and him. We were just so excited to be a part of that. And “Desert Flower” was the center of the show.
What are your impressions of the InLiquid Benefit?
I remember my first one where they still did the live auction. I remember sitting there and we were bidding ferociously on two pieces. I was determined to get them and I’m so happy that we did. They’re proudly displayed in prominent areas in our home. We really love helping artists. Our personal mission is art, education, and youth, and combining all three of those to either give kids and experience or help them perfect the gift they’ve been given. That’s really what it’s about with us. So whether it’s supporting them personally, or purchasing art to help support the movement with glass, ceramics, or flat art. InLiquid does that and that’s why we enjoy going there.
Once you get into this game people start hearing about you, and you start getting a gazillion phone calls. We needed to say, listen, we’d be happy to come to your event, but that’s where it ends. This is what our mission is, and we need to focus on it. It flows easily because it’s the truth and it’s how we live and how we support.
If you could give some advice to first time art collectors, what would it be?
Follow your heart. If you see something and it grabs you, just buy it. You’re going to enjoy it. If I keep thinking about something, and you feel you have to go back for it, then you need to have it.
But at the same time, listen to those who know. If you’re serious about building a collection, then you want to incorporate pieces in there that have value and give credibility to a collection. It’s showcasing the work.
You can take Franz’s advice and start a collection of your own at Benefit v.14 on Saturday, February 8 at Crane Arts
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